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Saddam Has 'Weeks, Not Months,' Says Security Adviser Rice

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2003 – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice propelled the administration's clear message to Saddam Hussein during a Sunday morning talk show: "If you're ever going to comply, this is the time."

Echoing remarks made by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the U.N. Security Council meeting on Feb. 14, Rice told Tony Snow on "Fox News Sunday" that Iraq has "weeks, not months." She expressed similar sentiments later in the day on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"What we need now though is for the world to unify," she said, "and to stop talking about whether we should go to war, whether we shouldn't go to war, and to say to Saddam Hussein, 'It is time.'"

Rice's comments came a day after protests against a war occurred in New York and several European cities. "People have a right to protest; people can say what they think," the president's security counselor noted.

But she pointed out the Iraqi people don't get those same rights. "The fact of the matter is that they're not saying what they think in Baghdad, because that's a regime that cuts people's tongue out if they say what they think," Rice said.

"It would be worthwhile to step back to remember the true nature of the Iraqi regime, how they rape and torture, how they kill women in front of their families to make a point, to remember that Saddam is acquiring and has acquired weapons of mass destruction, that he's used chemical weapons on his own population and his neighbors. And ask yourself, 'Do you really want this regime to go unchallenged for the next 12 years, as we've done for the past 12 years?'"

Rice told Fox's Snow that U.S. and British diplomats continue work on another draft U.N. resolution to authorize the use of force to disarm Iraq. Rice said the White House would accept such a resolution if in fact it affirms the obligations the Security Council undertook in U.N. Resolution 1441, which calls for full immediate, unconditional and active Iraqi disarmament and elimination of weapons of mass destruction. However, she said that the Security Council must make clear that its resolution will not be "serially abused" as Iraq has done over 12 years.

"We don't want a Security Council resolution if it is only a delaying tactic," Rice said. "We believe that we have all the authority necessary under 1441 and several other U.N. Security Council resolutions to impose serious consequences on Iraq if necessary." Resolution 1441, according to Rice, "simply states" that if Iraq fails to comply with the Security Council obligations then it will face serious consequences.

The president's security adviser repeated what has not happened so far. "Iraq was supposed to file a full and complete declaration about its weapons of mass destruction and its (nuclear, chemical, biological and missile) programs on Dec. 7. Instead, they file a declaration that everyone knows was a joke 12,200 pages of nothing," she stated.

"They have not cooperated with the inspectors. ... When it comes to answering to tough questions about VX (nerve gas) or anthrax or those mobile biological laboratories, the Iraqis have failed to do that," she added. "They are not cooperating; they are deceiving."

When asked whether President Bush would set a deadline for war, as his president father did in the early '90s first Gulf War, Rice said that the White House is in a diplomatic phase where the discussion is how to best bring this situation to a conclusion.

"We've not determined that there needs to be a deadline," she said, "but I think that we are determined that the Security Council cannot continue on this path for very much longer."

Although NATO allies like Germany and France are asking for more inspectors inside Iraq, along with more time for them to do their job, Rice said the inspections are not working.

"I don't understand how anyone can say the inspections are working," she observed. "The inspectors were never sent there to be detectives. They were not sent there to give (Saddam Hussein) a final chance to be inspected. They were sent there to verify his disarmament. ... The inspectors are doing their very best under extremely difficult circumstances, but 1441 was not set up as a test of the inspectors but as test of Iraq's willingness to comply."

Rice the United States has allowed the inspections to go forward in the context of 1441, but she said that resolution also talks of a "final opportunity to comply." She stated that sooner or later, and "we believe sooner," the Security Council will have to say that Iraq has not taken that final opportunity, and this country and its coalition partners will have to act. Rice repeated what President Bush has been saying: that a "coalition of the willing" has been preparing and is ready to go.

"We have been preparing for some time now and we are in a period now, a diplomatic window, where we should be discussing how the Security Council can best carry out its obligation. Saddam shouldn't read that somehow he will get away with this again."

Rice also commented about a tape shown on Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera, where Osama bin Laden speaks of at least 10 "weak spots" that al Qaeda operatives could target in the United States.

Rice said she was not familiar with what was said in the tape. However, she said that the White House is very concerned about homeland security. She said that the president begins each day meeting with the FBI, CIA and Secretary of homeland security to review the country's threat matrix.

"We are working very feverishly to try and disrupt and deal with vulnerabilities inside the United States," she said. "It's not a perfect science, but there is an enormous effort going into it, and America should know that this is the principal preoccupation of the government. The president is doing everything that he can to defend the homeland."

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