| The fatal United and American Airlines on September 11, 2001, are marked on the body of a fighter plane alongwith a threat aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea. (AFP)
Washington, Nov. 22 (Reuters): The US could fight Iraq in the summer, especially in the cool of the night, if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein waits until the winter passes and then obstructs UN weapons inspections, US secretary of state Colin Powell said today.
Powell told CBS television in an interview that the winter was the ideal time for a military operation but the United States should not be bound by any calendar.
“Many battles have been fought in the heat of summer, and the United States armed forces are very effective at night, when it is much cooler,” Powell said.
“So if Saddam Hussein or anyone else thinks that once this ideal window passes they are safe for another year I suggest that may be false hope,” he added. The conventional wisdom in Washington has been that the United States would prefer any military operation to take place well before the heat of summer, which makes it difficult for US troops to operate in the clumsy suits they might wear to protect themselves against chemical or biological weapons.
In the 1991 war with Iraq over Kuwait, the United States fought from mid-January to the end of February. US generals had worried that any delay would have complicated the war.
Powell, speaking from the Czech capital Prague, said the United States was not seeking war anyway, provided Saddam cooperates with the U.N. weapons inspectors, as required in a UN resolution passed on November 8.
The next test for Iraq comes on December 8, the deadline for giving the United Nations a declaration of any nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs it may possess.
President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that Saddam would be entering his “final stage” if he says in the declaration that he has no such weapons. Other members of the Security Council say that a false declaration alone would not justify war. Powell said: “I don't think that any of us have any illusions about what he will put in his declaration on the 8th of December or whether he'll try to deceive the inspectors.”
“If the declaration is patently false and everybody can see it, if he does not let the inspectors do their job, and he reverts to his ... previous pattern, then the President is fully ready to take the necessary step, which is military force,” the secretary of state added.
In a separate interview with NBC News today, Powell said that a false declaration by Iraq on December 8 would be “a big signal to the international community as to what we might have to do in the future.”
Powell defended the Bush administration's attempts to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, denying that its West Asia policy was a failure.
He told CBS: “The Bush administration cannot solve this problem in and of itself. It's going to take others to come to the table and try to solve this problem.”
“It's going to take a commitment on the part of the Palestinian leadership to end terror attacks. It's going to take a commitment on the part of the Israeli government to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that they are committed to a Palestinian state,” he said.