Saddam Challenges Bush To Debate
CBS NEWS - Feb. 24, 2003
In an exclusive interview with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein has challenged President George W. Bush to a live, international television and radio debate about the looming war.
Saddam envisions it as being along the lines of U.S. presidential campaign debates. The Iraqi president also flatly denies that his al-Samoud missiles are in violation of United Nations' mandates and indicates he does not intend to destroy them or pledge to destroy them as demanded by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix had set a deadline for at least a promise by this weekend.
Responding to Saddam's proposal, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer tells CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller that it's "not a serious statement."
Fleischer said, "This is not about a debate. This is about disarmament and complying with the worlds instructions that Iraq disarm."
As for Saddam's denial of possession weapons of mass destruction, Fleischer said Saddam "is not facing reality on the issue of the al-Samoud missiles, why would his other statements have creditability?"
Fleischer said it would be more helpful to the world if Saddam engaged in disarmament and not debates.
Meanwhile at the United Nations, the United States, Britain and Spain submitted a resolution Monday declaring that Iraq has missed "the final opportunity" to disarm peacefully.
The resolution was formally presented by British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock on behalf of the three countries.
But France, Russia and Germany, which oppose the war option, circulated an alternative plan to pursue a peaceful disarmament of Iraq over at least the next five months. China said it also supports that proposal.
The rival positions set the stage for a heated battle over whether the council would back the U.S. and British demand for war now or the French, Russian and German call for war to be "a last resort."
Getting approval for the U.S.-backed resolution will be a daunting task. To pass, the resolution must have nine "yes" votes and avoid a veto by France, Russia or China. Eleven of the 15 council members want to see U.N. weapons inspections continue; Bulgaria is likely to support the U.S.-British-Spanish plan.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell urged China to support the new resolution at meetings with top officials in Beijing on Monday, but the Chinese stood by their long-standing position that U.N. inspections should continue.
The resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, does not set any deadlines. But U.S. and British officials made clear they want the Security Council to vote by mid-March.
The resolution declares that Iraq has failed to take advantage of its last chance to disarm peacefully and therefore must face the "serious consequences" the Security Council threatened in Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously on Nov. 8.
The new resolution recalls that "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations" under U.N. resolutions.
It also recalls that council decided on Nov. 8 "that false statements or omissions" in its 12,000-page declaration to U.N. weapons inspectors "and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of that resolution, would constitute a further material breach."
The resolution notes that the council has repeatedly warned Iraq "that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." It also notes that Iraq's Dec. 7 weapons declaration contained "false statements and omissions."
The resolution acts under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, making it militarily enforceable. It does not call for "all necessary means" to be used against Iraq.
Instead, its only enforcement paragraph would have the Security Council decide "that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441."
French diplomats said the French-German-Russian plan, which includes strengthened U.N. weapons inspections, can be implemented under existing U.N. resolutions and would be submitted as a memorandum.
"The aim is to establish a timetable for Iraq's disarmament, program by program, relating to weapons of mass destruction," French President Jacques Chirac told reporters in Berlin before talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
"The Security Council must step up its efforts to give a real chance to the peaceful settlement of this crisis," the French, Russian and German paper said.
Despite the contrasting positions, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock planned to introduce the resolution at a closed council meeting Monday.
"We will be allowing a good period of up to two weeks or maybe a little more before we will ask for a decision," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in Brussels, Belgium. "We want an international consensus."
President Bush told U.S. governors Monday that the resolution "spells out what the world has witnessed the last months. The Iraq regime has not disarmed. The Iraqi regime is not disarming as required by last fall's unanimous vote of the Security Council."
He pressed the council to adopt the resolution.
"It's a moment for this body ... to determine whether or not it's going to be relevant as the world confronts threats in the 21st century. Is it going to be a body that means what it says? We certainly hope so," Mr. Bush said.
The president said the administration will work with the Security Council "in the days ahead" on the resolution. He did not set a timetable, though his spokesman said Britain's calls for a mid-March vote was fine with the president.
Separately, the U.S. on Monday overcame a hurdle in military preparations with Turkey's Cabinet agreeing to the deployment of tens of thousands of U.S. troops, allowing for a possible northern front against Iraq.
Turkey's parliament was expected to vote Tuesday on whether to allow the troops. A deadlock on the issue was broken when Washington offered Turkey $5 billion in aid and $10 billion in loans to cushion its economy in a war.