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The Drums are beating again.........

  1. Yak

    13,672 posts.
    As Richard Butler said last night, "if they dint comply - they're toast" and agreed it was warranted.

    Markets have and will reflect the "real truth" not the edited version we get to hear.

    West on brink of Iraq war

    by Joe Murphy, Evening Standard
    The US and Britain returned to the brink of war today as Saddam Hussein's dramatic promise to allow unfettered weapons inspections turned out to have strings attached.

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    Iraq made a surprise offer late last night to provide "unconditional access" to United Nations inspectors, raising hopes of a peaceful outcome to the Gulf crisis.

    But today it emerged that the offer only applied to military bases - which could let Saddam hide chemical and biological arms stockpiles elsewhere.

    That was not good enough for Downing Street, which insisted: "Inspectors must be allowed to go anywhere, anytime."

    Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged the world to beware of being tricked by Iraq. "We have had games played by Saddam Hussein for the best part of 12 years," he said after meeting the Prime Minister.

    "One thing I know for certain about him is he only responds to sustained pressure from the United Nations."

    Iraq seemed to have succeeded in opening cracks in the fragile international coalition, however. Although the United States dismissed his offer as a ploy, France and Germany promptly questioned the need for a fresh UN resolution setting a deadline for Iraq to comply with existing rules.

    Other countries, too, which have previously been reluctant to back a war against Saddam, seized the opportunity to claim the crisis was all but over. Fears are growing of a split in the 15-member UN security council which will study the offer today.

    Amid confusion, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear inspections body, declared it was ready to recommence its work "tomorrow" if the UN agreed.

    The disclosure that restrictions were, after all, attached to Saddam's offer was made by the London ambassador of the Arab League which brokered the deal in the first place.

    Ali Muhsen Hamid claimed Iraq was being sincere, but he stipulated that civilian sites would not be available to the inspectors. "We support anywhere, any military site (for inspections), but not as some people have suggested for inspections against hospitals, against schools."

    Hospitals are among key sites for inspections because of evidence that Saddam uses health laboratories to manufacture viruses for biological weapons.

    An Arab League spokesman said only military sites were covered because it would take 10 years for inspectors to examine civilian buildings, which would divert the UN's attention from making Iraq obey its resolutions. "If the US really wants to resolve this dispute it will welcome the offer," he added.

    No10 pointed out that during the last, failed, round of inspections, the Iraqi president redesignated about half of his most secret military installations as " presidential palaces", ruling them out of bounds to inspectors.

    Iraq capitalised on the disarray to mount a propaganda offensive. Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy prime minister, said the offer "thwarted" any reasons for a military attack. He added: "The aim of the American policies is the oil in the Gulf."

    The Iraqi state news agency said Saddam may send a personal appeal to the UN within days.

    Saddam made his offer in a letter presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan late last night after an emergency meeting of his security and diplomatic advisers.

    Within minutes, the White House issued a statement scorning the promise as "a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong UN Security Council action".

    "As such, it will fail," said spokesman Scott McClellan. "This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions."

    The concern in Washington is that support for military action will rapidly lose momentum. A State Department official described the offer as " a nightmare stalling technique".

    Officials said planning for war would continue unchanged. But there was no longer any guarantee of a resolution ordering Iraq to disarm.

    France was the first of the big five Security Council members to waver, suggesting that a new resolution be put on hold. And its top general flatly ruled out any preemptive strike against Saddam.

    Armed forces chief General Jean-Pierre Kelche said an attack would bring chaos, adding: "We have to take him at his word."

    Russia declared diplomacy had triumphed. Foreign minister Igor Ivanov said: "We have managed to deflect the threat of a military scenario and to steer the process back to a political channel."

    A senior European Union official implied that the US was now out of line, saying: " The question now is whether the Americans will take 'yes' for an answer."

    Under the 1991 Gulf war ceasefire terms, UN inspectors must verify the dismantling of Iraqi programmes for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and longrange missiles.

    President Bush, whose stated policy is the ousting of Saddam, last week told the UN General Assembly that "action will be unavoidable" against Iraq unless the world body forced Baghdad to disarm.

    Tony Blair had one consolation - a poll showing far greater support for military action in the wake of President Bush's speech.

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