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Cohen Blames Hussein for Iraqi Suffering

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Dec. 3, 1997 – Saddam Hussein -- not the United Nations -- is responsible for sickness and death among the Iraqi people, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told reporters Dec. 1.

Iraq's leader claims U.N. sanctions are causing hundreds of children to die from a lack of medicine. CNN broadcast scenes of a procession bearing children's coffins through the streets of Baghdad in late November.

Hussein should not be allowed to "lobotomize the world community by saying this is all the fault of the United States or the United Nations," Cohen said en route to NATO meetings here.

"Saddam Hussein is responsible for the deaths of those children," he said. "All he has to do is to stop impeding the U.N. inspectors and he would not be in the situation he is in today. He still continues to hide weapons of mass destruction."

Rather than help his people, Hussein concentrates on becoming a major regional power by using chemical and biological weapons, Cohen said. "He cannot be allowed to do that."

For six years, Iraq constantly has played hide and seek with U.N. inspectors, Cohen said. Now, after allowing inspectors back into Iraq following a three-week expulsion, Hussein refuses to permit inspections at what the U.N. deems 63 sensitive sites. This includes the Iraqi leader's palaces, which Cohen says are thousand-acre compounds.

Food and medicine from U.S.-initiated oil-for-food programs need to reach the people rather than being diverted to the military, Cohen said.

"I think it's interesting that the focus has been on malnourished children," he said. "We haven't seen any malnourished members of the Republican Guard."

The confrontation between the United Nations and Iraq has eased in the last few weeks, Cohen said, but "it has only been deferred unless Iraq is willing to grant unimpeded access to U.N. weapons inspectors."

The United States wants a diplomatic solution to the situation, but military action has not been ruled out, Cohen said. "A lot will depend upon what the Iraqis do in terms of stopping the inspectors from going to these compounds.

"We ought to have CNN cameras going into the compounds and exploring all of the compounds' activities," rather than showing processions in Baghdad streets, Cohen said. "That would be a balanced presentation on the part of Hussein."

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