The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bush leaves war & peace to Saddam
- Blackwill clears air on what America expects of Iraq on eve of weapons report to UN

New Delhi, March 6: The US has placed the onus of a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis on Saddam Hussein even as it stepped up diplomatic efforts to garner the “requisite votes” to pass a second resolution at the UN Security Council and to prevent France from vetoing it.

“The issue of war and peace is up to one man: Saddam Hussein,” US ambassador Robert Blackwill told The Telegraph this afternoon. He went into great detail during an interview to explain the US stand on the present crisis and how, even at this stage, it could be resolved peacefully without going to war.

“Saddam Hussein will either, after 12 years, abide by his obligations to the UN Security Council, or he won’t. If he does, then this crisis will end peacefully,” Blackwill said.

Outlining what the Bush administration wants the Iraqi President to do, he said: “If he gives the full list of the weapons of mass destruction, gives evidence of the weapons and missiles he has destroyed, allows the Iraqi scientists to go wherever they want with their families, then the crisis will be resolved peacefully.” He added quickly: “But if he doesn’t, then he will be disarmed by force.”

Yesterday, France said it would block a US-sponsored second resolution and, if need be, may even use its veto power at the Security Council. The American leadership feels the French position has not been reflected correctly in the media reports. “What they have said is that they do not want a second resolution,” Blackwill said.

Arguing that since the Security Council Resolution 1441 was “absolutely decisive and clear” that “serious consequences will follow Iraqi non-compliance”, there was no need for a second resolution. But if there is still differences on the issue, the US will work on it.

The US believes that when Hans Blix shares his assessment with the Security Council tomorrow in New York, there will be nothing to suggest that Hussein has been complying with Resolution 1441. “We are now coming to an end of the diplomatic phase.” If the Security Council members fail to reach a consensus, the US will formally move the second resolution next week.

The US will need at least nine votes to push it through the 15-member Security Council. Blackwill said his country was “relatively optimistic” of garnering the support. “But the question is even if we get the votes, will anyone veto'” Attempts are being made to ensure that it does not happen. But if it does, the Bush administration has made it clear that it will cobble together an “international coalition” of dozens of countries and strike Iraq.

Blackwill argued that despite opposition from France and Germany, nearly 20 European countries had endorsed the US position. The ambassador vehemently protested the view that the US was “raring to go to war against Iraq, despite an overwhelming view in the world for peace”. He pointed out that in the last 12 years, the US was only “raring to go to the UN” to get a resolution passed through it and build an international opinion to ensure that Hussein complied with his obligations.

Blackwill said that unless “Saddam Hussein has a massive change of heart at the last moment”, the chances of a peaceful resolution of the Iraqi crisis was fast slipping away. “If there is anyone who wants to avoid a war most, it is the President of the United States, George W. Bush.”

He argued that it is the American President who will have to take the decision of sending his men to war in Iraq, many of whom may not return. “But sometimes not acting is more dangerous than acting. And that time is now.”

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