Iraqi ploy keeps American-led arms team off the job

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Using a bureaucratic ploy, Iraq once again prevented a U.S.-led arms inspection team from doing its job Tuesday. The move drew new warnings from Washington that it will not tolerate interference in the U.N. program to find Iraq’s hidden weapons.
Team leader Scott Ritter, ready and waiting at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, was left in the lurch when his Iraqi escorts failed to show up for a planned inspection tour of suspected weapons sites.
The move was less dramatic but no less decisive than the actual blocking of inspectors that set off the last Iraq-U.N. crisis, when American inspectors were eventually thrown out of Iraq in November and arms inspections were halted for three weeks.
Iraq’s newest challenge — which came a day after it warned it would ban inspections by Ritter’s team because it had too many Americans — produced a replay of last year’s crisis rhetoric.
Iraq’s state-run press accused Washington of trying to “injure the dignity of Iraq,” and America’s U.N. ambassador said Iraq was instigating a new confrontation.
“I can tell you, patience is running out in a lot of Security Council capitals. The Iraqis are really pushing this to the brink,” Ambassador Bill Richardson told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“It really looks as if Iraq is looking for any excuse not to comply with its international obligations toward the Special Commission and the Security Council,” said British Ambassador John Weston.
He said that Iraq’s failure to comply with U.N. resolutions “will certainly have consequences, and those consequences will not be the early lifting of sanctions.”
Iraq countered with its ambassador to the United Nations, Nizar Hamdoon, charging that the heavy use of American and British inspectors underscores that these countries have “the aim of misleading the Security Council and international opinion about the facts in Iraq.”
Ritter’s move, the Iraqi ambassador said, was part of a ploy to lend credence to Iraqi opposition claims that Baghdad has subjected its prisoners to “chemical and biological” experiments using insecticides.