Iraq Says Cooperation Is Conditional

U.N. Seal, Resolution, Iraq, Saddam Hussein CBS

With another important appearance by top weapons inspectors looming, Iraq made gestures of compliance on several outstanding disarmament issues Monday — destroying missiles and preparing a report on old weapons.

But Iraqi officials also warned that those efforts would cease if the United States pressed a war on its own terms.

"If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going to a legal way, then why should we continue?" Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser, Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi said Sunday.

That statement was likely only to provide more fodder for U.S. officials who say Iraq's destruction of the banned Al Samoud 2 missiles is just part of a pattern of deception and doesn't indicate any real cooperation.

The White House has called the missile destruction part of Iraq's "game of deception."

Iraq destroyed six more of the missiles — which experts say violated a 93-mile limit on Iraqi rockets — on Monday. A spokesman for United Nations inspectors, Hiro Ueki said the Iraqis also destroyed two empty warheads built for the Al Samoud 2 and continued cutting up two casting chambers used to make another missile, the Al Fatah.

Iraq said it would submit a detailed written report to the weapons inspectors in about a week with a proposal for verifying its claims that it unilaterally destroyed anthrax stores and about 1.5 tons of VX, a deadly nerve agent, Ueki said.

Al-Saadi said Sunday night that Iraq wanted to use DNA testing to help determine the characteristics of the destroyed anthrax.

CBS News Correspondent Charles D'Agata reports that top Iraqi and U.N. officials have held two days of intense meetings in Baghdad over what happened to the missing anthrax and nerve gas.

It's unclear whether the evidence will be ready by Friday, when chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reports again to the Security Council.

The weapons inspectors went Monday to a chemical and explosives plant and a rocket factory where they have been before, and to two import companies and a plastics factory, Iraq's Information Ministry said. The inspectors do not comment on their day's work until evening.

Iraq also said inspectors returned to al-Aziziya, an abandoned helicopter airfield 60 miles southeast of Baghdad, where Iraq says it destroyed R-400 bombs filled with biological weapons in 1991.

Al-Saadi said 157 of the R-400 bombs contained anthrax, aflotoxin and botulin toxin. He said Iraq has been excavating them and so far has uncovered eight intact bombs, as well as many fragments of destroyed bombs.

On Sunday, U.N. weapons inspectors took samples of the material in the bombs to confirm their composition.

Al-Saadi indicated the destruction of the missiles was not an easy thing for Iraq to do. He said Iraq will not let anyone see photographs or video images of the missile destruction — despite the potential impact on world opinion — because it would be too bitter for the Iraqi people to watch.

"It is too harsh. It is unacceptable," he said somberly. "That's why we have released no pictures."

Instead, Iraqis saw Saddam on Sunday night's television news, listening to army officers telling him of their readiness for war.

One officer told Saddam that American planes were dropping leaflets. The U.S. military said it dropped 240,000 leaflets in northern Iraq and 360,000 in southern Iraq on Saturday alone.

"They weren't able to defeat us with bombs. Are they going to defeat us with leaflets?" Saddam asked the officer.

According to U.S. Central Command, American or British jets have dropped leaflets on Iraq 21 times in the past two months.

That was just part of the increase in activity within the no-fly zones at either end of Iraq's territory. U.S. jets have bombed targets in Iraq 30 times in the past 60 days, with an increasing focus on ground weapons systems — not anti-aircraft armaments, as is normally the case.

Meanwhile, the United States insisted its war plans were still intact despite the Turkish parliament's stunning failure to approve the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops there.

"No matter what course Turkey selects, if the president authorizes the use of force, no matter which route it takes, there's no doubt it will lead to a successful military outcome," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Turkey's stock market plunged Monday on fears that the decision would jeopardize a promised $15 billion aid package.

A top member of Turkey's governing party rejected a quick new vote on the proposal, but Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis appeared to leave the door open for another vote, saying leaders will conduct a "process of evaluation" first.

Other aspects of the war plan continued to fall into place. U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers that might fight in the possible war began landing in Britain, with 14 expected throughout the day, the government said.

At the same time, Prime Minister Tony Blair's popularity is losing altitude — reaching the lowest level of his terms in office, according to a Mori Social Research Institute Poll showing only 31 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Blair's performance as prime minister.

The poll did not test reasons why voters were dissatisfied, but Blair's support for U.S. Iraq policy has prompted massive demonstrations in London and a historic revolt by members of Blair's own Labor party.

Elsewhere, a meeting of Gulf ministers failed to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates calling on Saddam to step down in a last-ditch effort to avoid war.

"It is a very important initiative, but we have to discuss it further," Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, the Qatari foreign minister, told reporters after the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV late Sunday that the majority of Arab leaders do not favor the Emirates initiative "for many reasons," including that the issue isn't regime change but to ensure through U.N. inspections Iraq is disarmed.
  • Joel Roberts

Comments