Iraq Orders All American Arms Inspectors To Leave the Country Immediately
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq today ordered all American arms inspectors to leave the country immediately, escalating its crisis with the United Nations and heightening the possibility of a military confrontation.
The United States warned of ``grave consequences.″
The demand came a day after the U.N. Security Council _ by a 15-0 vote _ condemned Iraq, imposed a travel ban on Iraqi officials and threatened unspecified ``further measures″ if Iraq did not reverse its decision to kick out the six American members of U.N. weapons inspection teams.
Today’s order, announced by the Iraqi News Agency, said: ``All American inspectors should leave Iraq immediately until the American administration and the Security Council decide to review their irresponsible policy and their dealing with Iraq.″
``Iraq is pushing this issue to the brink and there are going to be some grave consequences,″ Bill Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned on ABC’s ``Good Morning America.″
``This is an Iraqi attack on the world, on the international community,″ he said.
President Clinton called an emergency meeting of his foreign policy advisers and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Officials in Washington stressed the meeting was not a signal of any imminent U.S. action.
About 1,500 Iraqis marched in the streets of the capital today before the expulsion order was announced, shouting slogans in support of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
``Our soul, our blood, we sacrifice for you, Saddam,″ the demonstrators chanted in front of U.N. Development Program offices.
Hundreds more surrounded Saddam’s main palace at Baghdad.
The state-run news agency said Iraq still will cooperate with the U.N. Special Commission, which is overseeing Iraq’s compliance with U.N. orders that it destroy its weapons of mass destruction. Until Iraq complies, the United Nations will maintain sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Iraq will accept new inspectors from countries other than the United States, the Iraqi news agency said.
It did not say whether Iraq will forcibly send the Americans out.
A U.S. foreign policy aide in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was up to the Security Council to decide whether to remove the U.S. inspectors.
A U.N. official in Baghdad, reached by telephone from New York, said the inspection team had received no word from Iraqi authorities about the order to leave. Alan Dacey said there was no sign of Iraq moving to enforce the order and no firm time by when the Americans had to be out.
``We have a plan we can execute to get them out safely, quite quickly,″ U.N. weapons inspection chief Richard Butler told ABC. ``There’s nothing to be concerned about.″
France _ which has signaled its unwillingness to go along with U.S. threats of military force _ called today’s order ``extremely regrettable.″
``We call immediately on the Iraqi authorities not to proceed with the expulsion of the American experts,″ Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret told reporters in Paris.
At the United Nations on Wednesday, Richardson declared that United States has the right to attack Iraq if it carried out its order to expel the Americans.
The latest crisis was triggered by Iraq’s Oct. 29 announcement that it would kick out all American arms inspectors working with the United Nations. Iraq says the Americans are spies.
Baghdad suspended the order until the 15-member U.N. Security Council finished its debate Wednesday, but had warned that any fresh sanctions would only make the expulsions inevitable.
Ten times in the past 11 days, including earlier today, Iraq has turned back U.N. inspection teams that include Americans.
Butler, the arms inspection chief, has suggested that Iraq might have forced the confrontation over the Americans’ presence because the U.N. teams were closing in on banned weapons.
Iraq ``can produce the whole palate of biological weapons, anthrax, botulism... and so on,″ Butler said today.
``What we’re witnessing now is steps to ensure that we can’t see what they’re doing.″