Presidential referendum in Iraq: voters urged to show massive support for Saddam, U.S. dismisses vote
Iraq mobilized for a massive show of support for President Saddam Hussein. The ruling Baath party has launched an all-out propaganda onslaught to ensure a 100-percent "yes" vote in Tuesday's leadership referendum for Saddam who has ruled since 1979.
The party has covered the country with banners declaring undying love for the ruler and organized thousands of meetings, parades and rallies. The authorities had urged voters to turn out in force to show massive support for Saddam in the face of U.S. threats of military action and President Bush's declared desire to remove him from power.
The United States dismissed the vote and said it lacked any credibility. "Obviously it's not a very serious day, not a very serious vote, and nobody places any credibility on it," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Washington.
Meanwhile, despite intense high-level contacts, the United States and Britain remain at odds with France, Russia and China over a new resolution on Iraq that Washington is demanding give authorization for military action.
"What I want is a firm resolution that says, 'You disarm,' and an inspection regime that is there, not for the sake of inspectors, but is there to achieve the objective of disarming Mr. Saddam Hussein," US President George W. Bush said.
"In order to make sure the resolution has got any kind of credence with Mr. Hussein, there has to be a consequence."
France has insisted on a two-stage approach — with U.N. Security Council authorization for action against Iraq only if it fails to comply.
"France wants to see to it that force can only be applied if based in law," French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said. "America seems tempted by the solitude of power and a concern for legitimizing the unilateral and preventive use of force." France "cannot accept an intervention" in Iraq "that would not be a last resort and that would not follow the path of law," he said.
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte met France's U.N. Ambassador John David Levitte, and on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was scheduled to hold talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Washington.
Qatar said on Tuesday it opposes any U.S.-led war against Iraq, but has yet to decide if it grants Washington's request to use its bases for such an attack.
"Our view in Qatar is against any military action in the area and we hope Iraq will accept (U.N.) Security Council resolutions and the entry of the (arms) inspectors," Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani told reporters upon arriving in Kuwait for high-level talks. "Until now even America has not decided on military action. This issue is being discussed in America and the U.N. "So it is premature for us to state our position now," the minister said when asked if Qatar would block the use of its military facilities by Washington in case of a war.
"Nobody approached us until now" with a request to use Qatari bases in case of war, he added. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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