03 March 1998
(Says Iraq must obey commitments without excuses) (800) By Wendy S. Ross USIA White House Correspondent Washington -- President Clinton says the unanimous (15-0) vote of the UN Security Council late March 2 "sends a clear message" to Iraq that it must honor its weapons inspection agreement with the UN or face "severest consequences." Speaking at a March 3 event in the East Room of the White House, Clinton emphasized that "Iraq must fulfill, without obstruction or delay, its commitment to open all of the nation to the international weapons inspectors, any place, any time, without any conditions, deadlines or excuses. "All the members of the Security Council agree that failure to do so will result in severest consequences," he said. "The government of Iraq should be under no illusion. The meaning of severest consequences is clear. It provides authority to act if Iraq does not turn the commitment it has now made into compliance," the President said. Clinton noted that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council March 2 that "Iraq's complete fulfillment of these obligations is the one and only aim of the agreement. No promise of peace and no policy of patience can be without its limits. Iraq's words must be matched by deeds. The world is watching." According to White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, the meaning of the term severest consequences "is as plain as day." He said it means that "diplomacy must be backed by force and the United States clearly has stated, and the President has so stated, that any reneging on the commitments that Iraq has acknowledged will lead to severest consequences which very clearly means military action." McCurry said "how and when those consequences might be applied may be, as the President has suggested, is a matter of timing and choosing that the United States makes." If necessary, he said, "we would act unilaterally, but the preference, as always, would be to act in concert with others, including members of the Security Council who have now made this very important statement acknowledging that severest consequences could arise." Nations that have opposed military action against Iraq, including Russia, the Press Secretary said, understand what "severest consequences" means. "Other members of the Security Council understand our views fully and so does the government of Iraq," he said. He noted that the UN Secretary General "made it quite clear last night that there would likely not be a second time around" if Iraq fails to comply fully with its latest agreement with the United Nations. Asked why many governments believe there is nothing in the March 2 Security Council resolution that suggests automatic use of force, McCurry responded that "different governments on the Security Council take different views about the automaticity that would trigger military action. That's what the debate in the Security Council has been: to what degree would any military action, as a result of a failure to comply with the agreement, lead to automatic military action. We have a view on that matter, and other governments have different views. "But I can safely report that every other government among the permanent members of the Security Council knows how seriously the world community would take any failure to implement this agreement by Iraq. And even some of those who are skeptical of use of force and against any concept of automaticity, those governments have assured the United States, at very high and highest levels, that they understand that a resort to force would be most likely if the government of Iraq continued to delay meeting its obligations under U.N. mandates." United Nations chief weapons inspector, Ambassador Richard Butler, "will be the one on the ground with his teams that will be in the best position to judge the performance of the Iraqi government as they carry out the inspections that they need to carry out in order to do their work," McCurry said. "So as we always have, we will take very seriously his reports to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council." But, McCurry made clear that the United States makes its own judgments "as a sovereign member state of the United Nations, as to world events or the understandings we have with respect to compliance with Security Council resolutions. And we believe it is manifestly clear already in Security Council resolutions that there's sufficient authority to take further steps." McCurry called "a prudent step" the Defense Department's decision to accelerate anthrax vaccinations of US troops. He said Central Command General Anthony Zinni recommended the move to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Henry Shelton and to Defense Secretary Bill Cohen. "And they are implementing it in a prudent, precautionary way," he said.