The former chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq labeled President Bush's threat against Baghdad a "Texan one liner," saying he must be more explicit, because it's obvious Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
The U.N. Security Council Wednesday, meanwhile, considers a U.S.-Russian deal that would postpone plans for an overhaul of U.N. sanctions against Iraq but also would pledge to revise the embargoes in six months.
The U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program, which contains sanctions regulations, expires on Friday. Its renewal, possibly on Thursday, will be on the same terms but include a commitment to conclude talks by June 1 on changing the embargoes.
Richard Butler, former head of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, said Washington already had more than enough evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify any action against President Saddam Hussein.
"When Saddam threw out the inspectors three years ago, I reported that there were still weapons there. The (U.N.) Security Council conducted an independent investigation and agreed," Butler told Australian radio on Wednesday.
"And in the three years of no inspections, there are multifarious reports saying that he has continued to develop more, so the U.S. knows that quite well," Butler said.
"It's an outlaw state," he said, adding Baghdad had refused to adhere to U.N. Security Council orders to rid itself of its biological and chemical weapons and allow inspections.
President Bush Monday demanded Iraq allow international arms inspections back into the country, saying the U.S.-led war on terrorism also targeted those who made weapons of mass destruction "to terrorize the world."
"He needs to let inspectors back in his country to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Bush said. If Saddam refused to readmit inspectors, "he'll find out" what the consequences are, Bush said.
The president's statement was an excuse to attack the Arab country, Iraqi newspapers said on Wednesday, and Iraq would not be frightened.
"Bush and his American administration...should not be blinded by the illusion of alleged victory in Afghanistan to mix up their cards (and attack Iraq) under the so-called 'war on terrorism,'" the official al-Qadissiya newspaper said in an editorial.
It said Mr. Bush's "arrogance" would not force Iraq to bow to threats.
The president's comments renewed speculation Iraq could be the next U.S. target after Afghanistan where the United States has launched strikes in its bid to flush out Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and punish his Taliban protectors.
Turkey's defense minister hinted on Wednesday that the NATO member might drop its long-standing objections to a U.S. attack on Iraq if circumstances changed.
Butler scoffed at Mr. Bush's threat to Saddam, labeling it a "Texan one liner" and policy "on the run."
"When the president was asked if he (Saddam) doesn't accept inspectors back what will happen, he said..in a rather Texan way 'he'll find out,' a bit like when he said of Osama bin Laden 'dead or alive' these (are) Texan one liners," Butler said.
"What does, 'he'll find out' mean? We need more clarity," Butler said. "What is meant by those remarks? Making policy on the run with a one liner is not sufficiently revealing."
Butler said the Bush administration was divided on Iraq.
"There's one faction that says we should go and deal with Saddam once and for all and another that says 'hasten slowly,'" he said. "I don't know that the president's remark means that that debate has been resolved. It's not a declaration of war."
Butler said Iraq must be brought to account for its refusal to disarm itself of biological and chemical weapons.
"My point is that I'm not sure that it's adequately addressed by simply saying 'he'll find out.' We need more detail and more clarity about what exactly he (Mr. Bush) had in mind," he said.
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