MANDELA SLAMS BUSH THE WORLD BULLY
[Daily Mirror, UK, Sep 18 2002]:
By Richard Wallace, US Editor, in New York
FRANCE dramatically joined a UN split over Iraqi weapons inspections yesterday as Nelson Mandela branded the US a world bully.
Leading Security Council members France, Russia and China opposed any new UN resolution approving military action against Iraq without first giving time for inspectors to do their work.
But the US, backed by Britain, dismissed Iraq's offer to allow inspectors back without conditions as a stalling ploy, insisted a new resolution was still necessary - and continued to prepare for war.
President Bush said last night: "The UN must act. We will not be held to blackmail by a barbaric regime. It's time for us to deal with the true threats of Saddam."
His hardline stance outraged former South African president Nelson Mandela, who said: "What right has he to say Iraq's offer is not genuine? We must condemn that very strongly.
"No country, however strong, is entitled to comment adversely in the way the US has done.
"They think they're the only power in the world. They're not and they're following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world. We must not allow that."
His concern was welcomed by Arab nations who believe nothing Saddam can do will satisfy the US.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said on Monday Iraq would readmit weapons inspectors with no strings attached. Last week, Deputy Premier Tariq Aziz said no such move was considered.
France said yesterday the world should test Iraq by quickly sending in inspectors. The Foreign Ministry said: "We must let Saddam's words speak for themselves."
Russia said: "It is essential to resolve the issue of the inspectors. No new resolutions are needed."
China said it hoped Iraq would create the "necessary conditions" for the issue to be resolved.
The three countries, with Britain and the US, are members of the Security Council's Big Five. Each can veto any resolution.
But the US and Britain said only the threat of military action would stop Saddam cheating.
Firing a scornful shot across UN bows Mr Bush said in Nashville, Tennessee: "It's time for the UN to determine if they want to be a force for good and peace, or an ineffective debating society."
He feared a "barbaric regime" linking with terrorists and providing weapons of mass destruction to hold the US and allies to blackmail.
The president warned: "We will not allow that. After 11 years of not doing what he'd say he'd do it's time for us to do deal with the true threats of Saddam. It's time for us to secure the peace."
Earlier, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Security Council foreign ministers the US would press on with a proposal allowing the use of force if Saddam fails to comply.
He said: "We didn't see Iraq suddenly acknowledging the error of its ways. What we saw was Iraq responding to enormous pressure.
"We cannot take a page and quarter letter signed by the Foreign Minister as the end of this matter. We have seen this game before."
Keeping up the pressure, the a senior White House official said: "This is just Saddam playing rope-a-dope with the world all over again. He's never kept his word. We need a new resolution.
Another official added: We've seen Iraq's stop-and-start before. If we stopped every time they started, we'd never end their programme of weapons of mass destruction."
US military preparations continued with Pentagon plans to send six
B-2 Stealth bombers to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, cutting in half the distance they would fly to Iraq.
Echoing the US, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that for nearly 12 years since the Gulf War Iraq had been "playing games".
He said: "This apparent offer is bound to be treated with high scepticism coming only days after Tariq Aziz said precisely the opposite.
"If we're going to have reintroduction of inspectors without conditions, we need a new resolution."
Home Secretary David Blunkett said Saddam meant to make "a monkey of the rest of the world".
Israel was equally doubtful. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said: "Supervision only works with honest people. Dishonest people know how to overcome this easily."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Baghdad's offer was "very important". Australian Prime Minister John Howard called Iraq's move "a cautious first step".
Britain's dismissal of Saddam's offer provoked fury among Labour MPs. Ex-Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd said: "Those who still want military action under any circumstances have to back off."
Tam Dalyell and Alice Mahon said Tony Blair should focus on inspectors, not war. They urged him to "seize the moment".
British diplomat Sir Marrack Golding, former Under-Secretary General of the UN, accused London and Washington of sounding "disappointed" because Iraqi offer could scupper their war plans. Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix met Iraqi officials last night to discuss "practical arrangements" for experts to return after four years.
But Iraqi Foreign Minister Sabri said the talks were "preliminary".
An Iraqi official said later the two sides will meet in Vienna in nine days to complete arrangements.
The Security Council asked its current president, Bulgarian Stefan Tafrov, to arrange a council meeting with Blix as soon as possible. The US and Britain said such a session could wait, but were outvoted.