clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Iraq bars 2 American weapons inspectors

Iraq refused to allow two American weapons inspectors to enter the country Thursday, underlining its order that U.S. arms monitors are not welcome, U.N. officials said.

Iraq took the action despite a U.N. Security Council demand that Iraq rescind Wednesday's order barring U.S. citizens from working with U.N. weapons teams in Iraq, the officials said.A third American working for another U.N. agency - the International Atomic Energy Agency - was told he would be admitted but chose to return to Manama, Bahrain, with the others after they were turned away, one U.N. official said.

Arriving for a Security Council meeting Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said Iraq's action was "very disturbing and continues a pattern of Iraqi obstructionism that we've tried to point out for some time."

In Washington, the White House warned that it would "carry out the will of the international community."

"There are a range of options that we can pursue to ensure compliance by Iraq," spokesman Mike McCurry said, providing no specifics.

U.N. sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two Americans flew from Bahrain to Iraq to join the 40-member inspection team that is trying to determine if Iraq has complied with U.N. orders to destroy mass destruction weapons.

Iraqi officials refused to let them off the plane, the source said, and they returned to Manama, Bah-rain. Iraq has given the 10 American inspectors in Baghdad one week to leave the country. The order applies only to Americans working for the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq, formed in 1991 to carry out weapons inspections in Iraq.

Baghdad's refusal to admit the two was the latest sign that President Saddam Hussein is not backing down from his expulsion order despite growing international pressure.

Even nations generally sympathetic to Iraq joined its adversaries in condemning Iraq's order Wednesday.

The arms inspectors are trying to determine if Saddam's government has complied with 1991 U.N. orders that Iraq destroy its weapons of mass destruction. Compliance with the orders is essential to ending harsh U.N. sanctions imposed when Iraq invaded Kuwait, sparking the Persian Gulf War.

U.N. officials said expulsion of the Americans - 10 of the 40 weapons inspectors in Iraq - would cripple the inspection team.

Iraq also asked the United Nations to stop using American reconnaissance planes to help verify compliance.

It said nothing about what it would do if the deadline passed with its demands unmet. China today urged both sides to "avoid further intensifying the conflict."

U.N. officials described the crisis as the most serious since October 1994, when Saddam sent troops to the Kuwaiti border and threatened to kick out American inspectors.

He backed down after President Clinton dispatched a carrier group and 54,000 troops to the region.