The Clinton administration ruled out any swift easing of U.N. economic sanctions that have crippled Iraq's economy. At the same time, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott denounced the U.N. agreement as a cave-in.
In a Senate floor speech Wednesday, Lott said accepting the accord U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan worked out last Sunday with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would amount to buying "peace at any price."
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended the administration's policy before a House Appropriations subcommittee. "It is real-world policy, not a feel-good policy," she said.
"Some in Congress say reject it," Albright said of the agreement. "We believe the wisest course is to test it."
"We're not going to swallow this hook, line and sinker," she said.
"We retain the authority, the responsibility, the means and the will to use military force if that is required," Albright added.
Touching on some of the fuzzy provisions, Albright said the diplomats who will be added to U.N. inspection teams will be "observers only," with the monitors conducting the searches.
She also said an arms control specialist, not a technician, will be added to the panel in charge and will head the teams that go to the so-called presidential palaces.
The administration, which has described its acceptance as only tentative, said the deal sets up a "win-win situation" in that either U.N. monitors will be able to get at suspected hidden biological and chemical weapons or, if Saddam backs out of his promise of unfettered inspections, support for a military attack would be greater than during the latest crisis.
Besides, easing U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq is "a long way off" and only hypothetical at this stage, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said.
The accord acknowledges the heavy burden the attempted isolation of Iraq has had on the Arab country's economy. But Rubin said lifting the sanctions required not only the opening of weapons sites and a lengthy evaluation of what was found but also Iraq's compliance with other U.N. resolutions.
These include a demand for the release of prisoners taken from Kuwait during Iraq's 1990 invasion of the oil-rich emirate. Some 600 are still missing, Rubin said on the seventh anniversary of Kuwait's liberation in 1991 by U.S.-led forces.
Lott, in his Senate speech, said: "It is always possible to get a deal if you give enough away."
"The deal negotiated by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Iraq does not adequately address the threat posed by Saddam Hussein," he said.
It was the first clear rejection of the deal by a congressional leader and may make it more difficult or President Clinton to convince Americans that the negotiated settlement was a better alternative to U.S.-led airstrikes against Iraq. Lott portrayed the deal as an abdication of U.S. power to the United Nations.
"The secretary-general is calling the shots," Lott said. "The United States is not."
Written By Barry Schweid
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed