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Cohen Says Saddam Must Provide Full Accounting of Weapons

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 1998 – Saddam Hussein must offer "convincing evidence" Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction before the current crisis can come to an end.

That's the message Defense Secretary William S. Cohen sent the Iraqi president March 17 in a speech here at the National Press Club.

"I would like to point out that the crisis is not over," Cohen said, referring the recent face-off between Iraq and the international community over weapons inspection rules. "After seven years, it is clear that Iraq is not to be trusted. It has displayed a historical pattern of deceit, deception and delay. "The bottom line is that Iraq may still be holding munitions and operational missiles with warheads filled with deadly chemical or biological agents," Cohen said.

Iraq has offered no proof to back its claim it has destroyed 50 warheads filled with the deadly nerve agent sarin, 25 Scud warheads and 157 bombs filled with biological agents, 130 tons of chemical agents and more than 15,000 chemical weapons, he said.

"He (Saddam) must, once and for all, make a full, final and complete declaration about what he has and what he has destroyed," Cohen said. "Saddam Hussein has an affirmative duty to produce hard evidence -- records, names, dates and places describing what was destroyed, how, when and where. It is not the inspectors' responsibility to prove that he is guilty of having and hiding these weapons ... It is Saddam's responsibility to provide proof positive that he is not."

Although critical of Iraq's past behavior, calling it a "historical pattern of delay, deception and deceit," Cohen praised the recent agreement reached with Iraq to resume the inspection process. "Under this agreement, nothing is off limits, there are no deadlines and there is no bar against repeat visits to the same site," the secretary said.

At minimum, Cohen said, the agreement gives U.N. inspectors the access they need to find and destroy weapons, munitions and missiles, and to institute a long-term monitoring system to ensure Iraq does not build more.

He warned Saddam the United States is prepared for a long and protracted process, and he should not expect international sanctions to be lifted soon.

"Only when Saddam is in full compliance with all relevant U.N. resolutions will there be sanctions relief for the Iraqi people," Cohen said. "Given Saddam's track record, full compliance may be a long time coming."

He urged the international community to remain vigilant and said U.S. forces will remain in the region at the ready.

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