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When Diplomacy Fails, It's Time for Action, Cohen Says

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait, March 11, 1999 – When talk fails, it's time for action, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

"Some say diplomacy -- and not force or sanctions -- are the way to deal with Saddam Hussein," he said at a March 10 press conference here. But in this case, he said, diplomacy has failed.

Cohen voiced U.S. resolve to continue containing Iraq during a trip to six Gulf states March 4 to 10. In each, he conveyed the same strong message: This is no time to ease up on Iraq.

"We must insist on full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions," the secretary said. "This is the best way to bring peace to the region and prosperity to the Iraqi people."

Here in Kuwait, where people experienced Iraqi aggression firsthand, Cohen cited ways the dictator has resisted diplomatic efforts over the past eight years.

"Diplomacy has failed to stop Saddam from repressing his own people," he said. Kurds in the north and Shi'a Muslims in the south, as well as political dissidents, still suffer assassinations and other forms of repression under Saddam's regime, he said.

"Diplomacy has failed to convince Saddam to give a full accounting of Kuwait's POWs and MIAs," Cohen said. The international Red Cross is still trying to account for more than 620 Kuwaiti troops unaccounted for since the Gulf War, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

Diplomacy has not persuaded the Iraqi dictator to release $275 million in medical supplies stored in warehouses, the secretary said. U.N. officials reported last month that Saddam has also withheld 40 percent of the equipment Iraq's received for water treatment and sanitation and 50 percent of the agricultural chemicals supplied under the oil-for-food program.

Nor has diplomacy forced Saddam to reveal the full extent of his chemical and biological weapons programs, Cohen said. Iraqi officials have persistently defied U.N. weapons instructors, destroying documents and other evidence and forbidding access to various sites.

Overall, Cohen concluded, "Diplomacy has failed to keep his weapons of mass destruction and conventional forces from threatening the region."

In light of the Iraqi threat, the secretary said, the United States must continue to work closely with its Gulf partners to make the region secure. To this end, he said, the United States is taking several steps to increase military cooperation with Gulf partners.

In Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, Cohen offered to share early warning information with each. The six states could set up computer terminals to receive real-time monitoring data about missile launches in Iraq or Iran, he said. He also offered to set up direct telephone lines between his office and Gulf state rulers to improve communication.

Pentagon officials announced they would work with Gulf defense officials to counter the growing threat of chemical and biological weapons. To further increase cooperation, more joint exercises will be conducted in the region.

Gulf leaders have expressed understanding and support for U.S. efforts to counter Iraq despite some contrary reports, Cohen said.

For example, the Qatari foreign minister said his government supports the U.S. Iraq containment policy in principle, but disagrees with U.S. tactics. "We wish not to see Iraq being bombed or attacked daily in the no-fly zones," the Qatari said March 9 at a press conference in Doha.

"We have our different opinion on this, but let me tell you one thing: Our main issue is how to bring peace and stability in the area," the Qatari leader said. "Sometimes we have our differences, ... but in principle, I don't think there is any difference between us and the United States."

In Kuwait, shortly before leaving the Gulf for stops in Jordan, Egypt and Israel, Cohen responded to press queries about the Qatari position. Based on his discussions with the prime minister and emir, Cohen said, "I am satisfied that we have the support of all of the Gulf states -- including Qatar.

"There is no state that would ever recommend that the United States or our British friends place our pilots in jeopardy as we enforce the Security Council resolutions."

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