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Crises, War, Seem Likely Between Two Long-time Sworn Enemies

Xinhuanet 2002-01-02 03:22:47



   BAGHDAD, January 1 (XinhuaNET) -- As U.S. President George W. Bush
takes the lead in the United States in pressing for the return of
arms inspectors to Iraq and the enforcement of the so-called "smart
sanctions," the new year is set to be tough for Iraq.
   With Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still being as adamant as
ever amid the beat of U.S. war drums, crises, or even a war, seem
likely between the two long-time sworn enemies in 2002.

   U.S. May Target Iraq After Afghanistan

   Even with the U.S.-led anti-terror war on Afghanistan still
raging, there has been widespread speculation that the U.S. will
zero in on Iraq since Bush demanded last November that the Saddam
regime allow international arms inspectors back into the country or
face consequences.
   On November 26, Bush strongly hinted that Iraq might become the
next target after Afghanistan by delivering a chilly message to
Saddam.
   "As for Mr. Saddam Hussein, he needs to let inspectors back in
his country to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass
destruction," Bush said.
   When asked about the consequences if Iraq rejects, Bush replied:
"He (Saddam) will find out."
   The U.S. House of Representatives also fired warning shots last
month by passing a non-binding resolution that called on Saddam to
allow an unrestricted return of U.N. weapons inspectors.
   The vote was just the latest in a string of U.S. calls for
taking offensives against Iraq as the U.S. military campaign in
Afghanistan has succeeded in overthrowing the ruling Taliban
militia and inched closer to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network
in Afghanistan.
   Ten U.S. congressmen have recently sent a letter to Bush, asking
him to target Iraq in the next phase of the anti-terror war and
claiming that Iraq had been reconstituting its weapons of mass
destruction program in the absence of the arms inspectors.
   U.N. arms inspectors withdrew from Iraq on the eve of a  four-
day U.S.-British air war against the country in December 1998.
   U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has also said that the downfall
of the Taliban regime should serve as a warning to Saddam.
   "If I were Saddam Hussein, I would be thinking very carefully
about the future, and I would be looking very closely to see what
happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan," Cheney said in a televised
interview in December.
   U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was even more
blunt when she said "the world and Iraq will live better" without
Saddam in power.
   In addition to possible U.S. military attacks under the pretext
of arms inspections, another thorny issue -- the "smart sanctions"
proposed by the U.S. and Britain -- lies ahead for the Iraqi
government this year.
   As a revised version of the "smart sanctions," a goods review
list, is set to be adopted by the U.N. Security Council by May 30,
2002 at the end of the current phase of the U.N. oil-for-food
program, crises might arise because Iraq's intransigence on the
issue might incur possible U.S. military strikes.
   The U.N. humanitarian program, launched since December 1996,
allows Iraq to bypass the sanctions, imposed for its 1990 invasion
of Kuwait, to sell oil and use part of the proceeds to buy food,
medicine and other essentials to offset the impact of the
sanctions.

   Iraq Defiant in Face of U.S. Threats

   While accepting the rollover of the U.N. oil-for-food program,
Iraq nonetheless vowed to reject the goods review list, which will
surely impose new restrictions on Baghdad as items on the list will
have to be approved by the U.N. before their shipment to Iraq.
   Iraqi officials and official media have slammed the list by
claiming that it is intended by the U.S. and Britain to tighten
rather than ease the increasingly unpopular sanctions regime.
   Moreover, Iraq has also firmly rejected the resumption of U.N.
arms inspections and vowed to defend itself in case of U.S.
attacks.
   Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Ahmed said in early December
that his country would continue to reject the return of arms
inspectors.
   The "spies" of the now-defunct U.N. Special Commission
(UNSCOM) "did not have a single proof" that Baghdad had failed to
comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant U.N.
Security Council resolutions, he said.
   Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said on December 1 that
the threats of U.S. military action would not intimidate Iraq,
adding that "Iraq will not be terrified by such threats."
   Aziz also expressed confidence that the "deep-rooted" Iraqi
leadership would stay on "despite all threats from the outside."
   Meanwhile, Saddam, who has remained as a constant bugaboo for
the U.S. more than 10 years after the Gulf War, told his countrymen
not to pay attention to the U.S. threats, reiterating that Iraq
would be capable of defending itself if it came under fresh U.S.
attacks.
   All these suggest that the recalcitrant Saddam regime is set to
run into fresh confrontations, or even military conflicts, with the
Bush administration, which is likely to toughen its aggressive
policy toward Iraq in 2002.
   Saddam, galvanized by his country's improving relations with
fellow Arab countries as well as military breakthroughs of shooting
down three U.S. reconnaissance planes in the past year, is seen 
being fully prepared to pick up the gauntlet.  Enditem

By Li Xuejun
 

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