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Note | Two items to note in this piece. The first is the most obvious
- Bush brazenly lied about Iraq's weapons capability, and the press has
called him on it. This is remarkable. The second item is the subtle
thrust of the knife into former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter,
who is described below as "defending Iraq." I have spoken at length
with Mr. Ritter. He is not defending Iraq. He is living up to the
oath he took as a Marine to defend America against all enemies, foreign
and domestic. In this matter, the enemy is in the White House. - wrp)
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White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq
President Meets With Blair on Strategy Ahead of Speech
Saturday, 7 September, 2002
to build a case Saturday that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was
developing weapons of mass destruction, President Bush cited a
satellite photograph and a report by the U.N. atomic energy agency as
evidence of Iraq's impending rearmament. But in response to a report by
NBC News, a senior administration official acknowledged Saturday night
that the U.N. report drew no such conclusion, and a spokesman for the
U.N. agency said the photograph had been misinterpreted.
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked to reporters before
opening about three hours of talks at Camp David, Bush's presidential
retreat in Maryland.
cited a newly released satellite photo of Iraq identifying new
construction at several sites linked in the past to Baghdad's
development of nuclear weapons. And both leaders mentioned a 1998
report by the U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency, or
IAEA, that said Saddam could be six months away from developing nuclear
don't know what more evidence we need," Bush said as he greeted Blair
for a brainstorming session on Iraq. "We owe it to future generations
to deal with this problem."
a joint appearance before the summit, the two leaders repeated their
shared view that Saddam's ouster was the only way to stop Iraq's
pursuit - and potential use - of chemical, biological and nuclear
policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to,"
Blair said as he joined Bush in trying to rally reluctant allies to
deal with Saddam, perhaps by military force.
IAEA: NUCLEAR ABILITY DESTROYED
to Bush's claim, however, the 1998 IAEA report did not say that Iraq
was six months away from developing nuclear capability, NBC News'
Robert Windrem reported Saturday.
Windrem reported, the Vienna, Austria-based agency said in 1998 that
Iraq had been six to 24 months away from such capability before the
1991 Persian Gulf War and the U.N.-monitored weapons inspections that
war and the inspections destroyed much of Iraq's nuclear infrastructure
and required Iraq to turn over its highly enriched uranium and
plutonium, Windrem reported. In a summary of its 1998 report, the IAEA
said that "based on all credible information available to date ... the
IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its programme goal
of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical
capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or
having clandestinely obtained such material."
WHITE HOUSE ADMITS ERROR
senior White House official acknowledged Saturday night that the 1998
report did not say what Bush claimed. "What happened was, we formed our
own conclusions based on the report," the official told NBC News' Norah
Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the U.N. agency, disputed Bush's and
Blair's assessment of the satellite photograph, which was first
publicized Friday. Contrary to news service reports, there was no
specific photo or building that aroused suspicions, he told Windrem.
photograph in question was not U.N. intelligence imaging but simply a
picture from a commercial satellite imaging company, Gwozdecky said. He
said that the IAEA reviewed commercial satellite imagery regularly and
that, from time to time, it noticed construction at sites it had
said the new construction indicated in the photograph was no surprise
and that no conclusions were drawn from it. "There is not a single
building we see," he said.
IRAQIS MET WITH U.N. OFFICIALS
reported that of all the international inspection regimes - chemical,
biological, missile and nuclear - it is the U.N. inspectors who are
most comfortable with Iraq's cooperation on nuclear matters. In fact,
the United Nations said last week that Iraq had been in contact with
U.N. representatives about a possible new round of talks on weapons
Security Council report Tuesday on the work of UNMOVIC - the U.N.
Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission - found that
personnel from UNMOVIC and the atomic energy agency met in Vienna in
July with Iraqi officials and Dr. Jaffar Jaffar, a high-level Iraqi
contact on nuclear weapons issues.
head of UNMOVIC also took part in what the report called a "dialogue"
between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji
report stated that Sabri wrote Annan expressing "the desire of the
Government of Iraq to conduct a round of technical talks" between Iraqi
officials and UNMOVIC representatives to review work on inspections
between May 1991 and December 1998 and to discuss other matters to be
resolved "when the inspection regime returns to Iraq."
extended "the offer of Iraq to take part in a further series of
technical discussions" in a letter last month, the U.N. report said.
officials insisted Saturday night that there was plenty of evidence
nonetheless that Iraq was intent on developing weapons of mass
senior administration official told NBC News that Iraq had also tried
to acquire thousands of aluminum tubes over the past 14 months that
would specifically be used in developing nuclear weapons. The shipments
were blocked, said the official, who would not say where they
continues to be ample evidence that Saddam Hussein has relentlessly
tried to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction, including
nuclear weapons," the official said.
The tubing is needed to build gas centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium to weapons grade.
EX-INSPECTOR DEFENDS IRAQ
another development, a former U.N. arms inspector who does not believe
that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, arrived in Baghdad
declaring that his mission was to try to stop any war on Iraq.
Ritter, who arrived in Baghdad late Saturday, was expected to address
the Iraqi parliament on Sunday. He was also due to meet senior Iraqi
said the trip was at his own initiative "As an American citizen
concerned about the direction that my country is taking, I think that's
the reason why I'm here."
here to help set in motion a sequence of events that hopefully could
prevent a war that doesn't need to be fought," he told CNN.
'A WAY FORWARD'
and Blair met Saturday ahead of Bush's speech Thursday to the U.N.
General Assembly to find ways to stop the threat posed by Saddam.
said some international leaders were raising "perfectly reasonable
questions" about a possible military attack on Iraq. Many U.S. and
British allies are voicing doubts about a pre-emptive attack.
got to make sure that we work out a way forward that, of course,
mobilizes the maximum support but does so on the basis of removing a
threat that the United Nations itself has determined is a threat to the
whole of the world," Blair said.
insisted that Bush had not settled on when or even whether to use a
military attack or other means to accomplish that goal. Regardless,
Blair - in marked contrast to other U.S. allies who have urged caution
- said the United States should not have to go it alone.
do think it's important we get the broadest possible support for what
we do," Blair told reporters earlier Saturday aboard his plane. "We
have always got to act lawfully, and that we will do."
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