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Cohen Stands Firm on Iraq

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 1998 – The United States will not agree to a "no-strike" policy against Iraq during the ongoing Winter Olympic Games in Japan.

That's just part of the message Defense Secretary William Cohen delivered Feb. 5 to the House National Security Committee during testimony.

"He (Saddam Hussein) is the one who is really in charge of resolving this issue," Cohen told legislators. "All he has to do to satisfy us or the U.N. is simply hand over the keys to various installations, stop blocking their access, and this will be solved diplomatically."

Cohen reassured Congress he, as well as all senior advisers to the president, are trying to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis. He resisted assertions the Clinton administration is rushing into military action.

"This is not a matter of chauvinistic chest-beating," Cohen said. "He's (the president) being very deliberate here and seeking ways to resolve it without the military having to use its power because, frankly, we all understand this is not the best way to resolve it. It may be the only way, but it's not the best way."

Cohen reminded the committee the Iraqi leader has been playing a "cat-and-mouse game" for years and has "engaged in a lot of deceit and manipulation," all designed to prevent U.N inspectors from doing their jobs.

He called Hussein's offer to open up some of his presidential palaces for inspection unacceptable and reiterated the president's position that U.N. inspectors must have unrestricted access to all identified sites.

Committee members expressed concern about Russian President Boris Yeltsin's remarks indicating a U.S. attack on Iraq could start a third world war. Cohen said he, too, was unsure of Yeltsin's meaning, but suspected the Russian president was responding to reports the United States was going to deploy or use nuclear weapons against Iraq.

Cohen said he didn't know the basis for the reports, but said "they are without any basis in fact." He also assured committee members Congress would continue to receive timely briefings about any additional deployments or actions against Iraq.

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