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U.S. fed up with Iraq, sees a need for action

SHARE U.S. fed up with Iraq, sees a need for action

The United States showed growing impatience with the Iraqi government Friday when a U.N. mission left Baghdad without a public promise that Americans can resume work on U.N. weapon inspection teams.

"Our sense is that the mission of the U.N. envoys did not achieve the desired result. . . . This is a disturbing, most disturbing development," State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters at his daily briefing.Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she expected the U.N. Security Council would take "firm action." President Clinton, speaking earlier, said he saw no reason for hope in the confrontation with Iraq. He refused to rule out any options for dealing with Baghdad.

Defense Secretary William Cohen said some action would be needed. The Security Council might impose new economic sanctions or even take military action, he added.

"The U.N. has to make a decision as to whether or not it would seek to pursue greater economic sanctions against Saddam or indeed consider authorizing military action," he said.

But all U.S. officials made clear that nothing would happen before Monday at the earliest when the U.N. mission reports to the Security Council in New York.

At the White House, Clinton's top foreign policy advisers met to assess the situation and review options, a spokesman said.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz gave mission leader Lakhdar Brahimi of Algeria a letter for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, but he did not disclose the contents.

To the media, Aziz repeated the Iraqi argument that the U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM), set up to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, has become an American-dominated instrument to prolong U.N. sanctions against Iraq.

"UNSCOM is being used as a means and a cover. . . . This is an endless game, an endless process that will last maybe for decades," Aziz told a news conference.

Clinton, asked if he saw any reason for hope, stressed each word as he replied. "No, I don't," he said.

"They will report and then the international community must decide what to do. I think it is important that we be resolute, and I think it would be a mistake to rule in or out any particular course of action at this time," he added.

"We have to counsel with our allies. We have to give them a chance to be heard and see what we're going to do. But I have seen no indication that any of our allies are weakening on this. Everyone seems to be united in their determination to restore the inspections on terms that the United Nations decides, not on Saddam Hussein's terms," Clinton said.

Rubin said neither Clinton nor Albright saw much hope of a diplomatic solution to the dispute, which broke out last week when Iraq introduced the ban on American weapons inspectors.

Iraq has also persuaded the United Nations to suspend overflights by U.S. Air Force U-2 spy planes.

"It's another day in which Saddam Hussein is flouting the will of the international community, in which the sign is that he isn't getting the message, that he continues to try to wiggle and obfuscate and delay instead of bringing closer the day when he could come into compliance," Rubin said.

The United States will grant Tareq Aziz a visa to visit the United Nations in New York. Brahimi said Aziz wanted to make the visit in the next few days to continue what he called "the talks and dialogue."

The United States, which dominates the U.N. Security Council, had said the mission to Baghdad had instructions to insist on compliance, not to engage in negotiations. Cohen said it was going to "read the riot act."

But on Friday Rubin gave them the benefit of the doubt, in another sign that a U.S. response is not imminent.

"If these diplomats listened, that's what diplomats do. If additional diplomats will be listening in New York, when Tareq Aziz comes, that's fine too. Discussion is a good thing. We have no problem with that," he said.