Iraq slams US attacks and questions significance of violations
Iraq, Politics, 12/17/1998
Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahaf said that the US and British governments are "fully responsible for their acts of aggression against Iraq," calling US and British leaders "cheap liars" and playing down the significance of the violations of unconditional access reported by UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler.
In a press conference today, al-Sahaf strongly criticized the US - British attacks on Iraq, which began yesterday, pointing out the differing tones in the positive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and negative UNSCOM reports. The Iraqi foreign minister called the UNSCOM report into question. Iraq has maintained that unlike the IAEA where the inspections are done in a technical manner, the work of UNSCOM has become politically motivated following US policy.
He enumerated that in the most recent round of inspections, eight inspection teams carried out 427 inspections at as many sites -- 299 already under regular monitoring and 128 not under regular monitoring. In all these inspections, al-Sahaf said, only five instances of non-cooperation were cited.
Al-Sahaf played down the importance of the five instances of non-compliance. In the first, the blocked inspection of Iraq's Baath Party headquarters, al-Sahaf stated that inspectors were unwilling to give a reason why they wanted to inspect the site.
In the second case, inspectors were delayed for 45 minutes in the inspection of a "small building," which had once been a government office but had been converted into a guest house.
Two other incidents, al-Sahaf said, referred to sites which were unable to be inspected on a Friday, when many places are closed on the Muslim holy day.
Finally, al-Sahaf said that a US inspector, Diana Simon, went to Baghdad University and asked to interview all undergraduate science students. He said it was very difficult to see the need for the interview.
The Iraqi foreign minister questioned whether these incidents were significant enough to justify missile attacks on Iraq.
He went on to list some of the targets which had been struck in the first waves of attacks. He said that among the sites hit were the house of Saddam Hussein's daughter; several industrial sites, "all of them are completely under ongoing monitoring; areas of Baghdad heavily populated by civilians; individual houses in several places; the security police headquarters and the military intelligence service headquarters, both of which had been inspected more than once.
US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton said today that information about the aftermath of the strikes "simply isn't available" or "would reveal too much" about Operation Desert Fox. He added that the US "struck more than 50 separate targets" while showing before-and-after pictures of two damaged sites that were hit, one of them being the headquarters of the director of military intelligence, Iraq's Republican Guard sites, radio and TV stations, along with Comand - Control - Communication centers. He ruled out that the US is after the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He added, "Additional strikes are on their way as we speak," using land-based and other types of aircraft. Shelton added that "without the Gulf allies, this operation would not be possible."
Al-Sahaf said, "Every Iraqi citizen is sure that the whole Arab nation is with us" as a result of what Iraq clearly sees as an unjustified attack.
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