Washington/Baghdad, Jan. 21 (Reuters): President George W. Bush spelled out the US’ readiness to attack Iraq soon, dismissing calls from Europe, Russia and West Asia today to give President Saddam Hussein more time to disarm.
“It’s clear to me now that he is not disarming... He’s been given ample time to disarm,” he said. “Time is running out.”
UN weapons inspectors pleaded for several months longer to check Iraq’s denials. And Security Council big powers France, Russia and China called for more time for diplomacy. But Bush responded: “This business about more time — how much more time do we need to be sure he is not disarming'
“This looks to me like a re-run of a bad movie and I’m not interested in watching it,” he added, saying Saddam had been defying UN resolutions since his Gulf war defeat in 1991.
Coming just a week before crucial meetings at the UN, they were among the most impatient comments yet from the leader of the world’s lone superpower. He is massing more than 150,000 troops in the oil-rich Gulf and has made clear he is ready to use them, with or without a new UN mandate.
Oil prices hit two-year highs as the Pentagon ordered two more aircraft carriers and 37,000 troops to the region.
Yesterday, chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix is to deliver a report to the Security Council. If he voices dissatisfaction with Iraq’s cooperation — and he told Reuters today there were still “many questions” unanswered — it could mean war.
The Security Council meets two days later on January 29 and Bush will meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his one big military ally in a “coalition of the willing”, on January 31.
Washington has made clear it sees no need further Security Council approval for an attack on Iraq — and France for one underlined that it will not get that mandate any time soon.
Foreign minister Dominique de Villepin said Paris wanted to rally the EU against a hasty decision to fight: “We see no justification today for a (military) intervention, since the inspectors are able to do their work,” he said in Brussels. “We could not support unilateral action.”
France, which has nonetheless left the door open to eventual use of force, has a veto on the 15-seat Security Council, along with the US, Britain, Russia and China. A White House spokesman voiced some frustration with the French stance, arguing that Paris agreed Saddam was lying. The EU is sharply divided, with Germany firmly against any war and Britain mobilising alongside the Americans, whose generals would prefer to fight before the hot desert summer.