US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday, March 7, a move by Washington to revise sanctions against Iraq — aimed at tightening controls while sparing the population — did not constitute an "easing" of sanctions.
"I think the characterization that I have sometimes seen that we are easing up or giving up, is quite incorrect. We discovered a collapsing situation. We're trying to fix that collapsing situation with respect to the sanctions," Powell said to a US House of Representatives committee.
"The inspectors have to go back in," Powell added, referring to international inspectors charged with verifying Iraqi disarmament who have been expelled by Baghdad.
During a trip to the Gulf region in late February Powell announced Washington's intention to restructure the sanctions regime in place against Iraq, focusing more on military purchases and less on civilian ones.
The sanctions have been the subject of mounting criticism, with opponents charging that they hurt Iraqi civilians without harming Saddam Hussein's regime.
But the conservative wing of the Republican party — currently the majority party in Congress — is reluctant to take any step that could be interpreted as a sign of backing down against the Iraqi leader.
Powell also said the administration of President George W. Bush was prepared to take military action against any activity or site in Iraq linked to the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, in violation of UN resolutions in place since the Gulf War.
"We also reserve the right, under this policy, that if and when we find facilities or other activities going on in Iraq that we believe are inconsistent with their obligations, we reserve the right to take military action against such facilities, and we'll do so."
He said US and British officials in charge of monitoring the no-fly zones imposed over southern and northern Iraq were reviewing those operations "to see if we're doing them in the best possible way to achieve the objective." — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)