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International Press Response to the U.N. Weapons Inspectors’ Report on Iraq

Comment and analysis from 19 newspapers in Frankfurt, Istanbul, Cairo, Amman, Paris, London, Tehran, Jidda, Dubai, Melbourne, Toronto, Glasgow, Singapore, Moscow, and Kingston

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, addresses the United Nations Security Council
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, addresses the United Nations Security Council Jan. 27, 2003, in New York (Photo: Stan Honda/AFP).
Frankfurt
Frankfurter Rundschau (liberal), Jan. 28: [The U.N. weapons inspectors’] report has proved exactly what Washington feared: The United States is mired in the “inspections trap” and its allies—specifically the French and the Germans—will keep it in that position. As for those opposing a possible war with Iraq, the report has only served as proof of what was assumed all along: The Bush administration had decided on a military attack long ago. This places Europe in a corresponding “war trap.” Through their unyielding resistance, they may force the United States to take action on its own, or they may play for time by insisting on the adoption of a second U.N. resolution authorizing force…. The issue at hand is no longer whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Concerns are now more focused on national interest and diplomatic positioning—those who fear a complete collapse of the threat scenario, as opposed to those who fear the mounting momentum. The dilemma lies in whether to adhere to the demands of the inspectors to be given more time, or to accede to U.S. military plans. The final decision will be made in the White House.
—Rolf Paasch

Istanbul Hürriyet (independent), Jan. 28: Yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush’s months-old hopes were dashed. More than 200 weapons inspectors—who have scoured Iraq for more than two months on behalf of the United Nations and searched nearly 400 sites—proved incapable of showing that Saddam Hussein possesses any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.… Although nobody seems to believe the assertions of Bush and his deputies on this issue, the world is being led into an ugly, meaningless war just because the United States wants to dominate oil supplies in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Turkey isn’t far removed from the region where this war will take place, and the Turkish people are in serious jeopardy…. Now there’s only one thing that can be done: hope that God will grant Bush a single moment of wisdom.
—Oktay Eksi

Istanbul Milliyet (liberal), Jan. 28: Will our world be closer to war after this weekend? I think so. However, the weapons inspectors’ report notes that giving them a few more months to do their work would be a valuable investment, because they could help to avert a war. A few months is also what many countries from Russia to China and antiwar activists worldwide are demanding from the United States. However, the Bush administration has made it abundantly clear that it’s prepared to go to war without U.N. backing, if necessary. Have these words come out of Bush’s mouth just to make Saddam Hussein sweat, or is Bush really serious about waging a war without U.N. or significant international backing? We don’t know yet… That’s why this is the most critical week for our country as well. Turkey should make its official decision on the U.S. demands as soon as possible.
—Sami Kohen

Cairo Al-Wafd (opposition), Jan. 28: The United States claims, or so it seeks to convince itself and the Western world, that by removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power, peace will be achieved in the Middle East. However, the Americans will not exercise pressure on Israel to attain that very same goal. Anti-U.S. sentiments will most likely rise all through the Islamic world. Moreover, Washington seems to have forgotten that the Middle East has long been the death of Western leaders, from the age of the Crusades to [former British Prime Minister] Anthony Eden’s time. Some believe that by dooming the tripartite aggression against Egypt [to failure] in 1956, America snatched control of the region away from Europe. Now America apparently seeks to monopolize oil concessions in the Middle East and, being also the world’s biggest consumer, it is set on controlling the product’s price. One day, news might be leaked about American-Israeli cooperation in the war on Iraq.

Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta (centrist), Jan. 28: Frankly, the work of the U.N. inspectors headed by Hans Blix is also becoming a farce. It is as if they were looking for a needle in a haystack when there is not one there anyway. You cannot just hide a nuclear reactor, or laboratories for the production of chemical or biological weapons. And if some buried ampoules of poison or bacilli are to be considered a threat to the world, we would have to dig in a great many countries. Why only in Iraq, anyway? And the forces of international terrorism, which are by no means routed, do pose a real threat to the world. Bin-Laden also sends “letters from afar.” Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and strong Islamic fundamentalist movement, could also pose a threat. The fundamentalists could well come to power on the back of an explosion of anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world if aggression against Iraq begins. But in this case terrorism will only grow stronger, because it will be given a moral justification. Nor will the antiterrorist coalition survive. So why the “big lie” about the U.S. intention to eradicate terrorism in the world?
—Andrey Kiva

Amman Jordan Times (independent), Jan 28: With the release of reports by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei on their findings in Iraq, whom do we trust? With world opinion, and even the U.S. media, increasingly questioning the… intentions of the U.S. administration in gearing up for a war on a country that has been under U.N. sanctions for 12 years, where is the trust? And when… world leaders express grave reservations about the United States’ so-called evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but are provided no proof, can there be trust? …U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte reacted to the inspectors' reports by reading a prepared statement only moments after the Security Council session adjourned. Can anyone trust that those were genuine reactions, or were they Washington’s usual dismissals of others’ opinions and findings? …Rebuilding trust requires daring and effort. As long as despair and division reign, the stage will remain set for a breakdown of international order.

Tehran Tehran Times (conservative), Jan. 27: The United States must not set a precedent for turning the world into a jungle, causing other countries to follow suit. Only the people of Iraq have the right to determine their future and decide what kind of government they want. What is certain is that Saddam Hussein has oppressed his people and the peoples of the region. Hence, the United Nations should find a mechanism through which the Iraqi people can determine their own future. The United States has no right to dictate the terms for establishing the future government of Iraq.

Paris Libération (left-wing) Jan. 28: Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix’s remarks to the U.N. Security Council yesterday were carefully nuanced so as to be perfectly ambiguous. But by remaining open to the possibility of prolonged inspections the hawkish leaders in both Washington and London have shown they are willing to let the U.N. continue its work. This is partially because of pressure from public opinion, which seems less and less convinced of the necessity of an attack, but it is also part of a longer-term calculation. Since the U.N. would likely be involved in deciding the fate of a postwar Iraq, it is important to keep on good terms with the other members of the international organization.
—Gerard Dupuy

London The Times (conservative), Jan. 28: A full-blooded war on Iraq, not just a few smart bombs, requires overwhelming evidence that Saddam Hussein is building up nuclear or other arsenals in flagrant defiance of U.N. Resolution 687. That evidence may yet emerge, but the half-hearted efforts so far of London and Washington to leak what they claim to know suggests it is not overwhelming. Saddam Hussein may be portrayed as so ingrained a liar and so reckless an arms manufacturer that there is no alternative to another war to prevent yet further defiance of the United Nations’ authority. But such a war is a U.N. war and must carry the U.N.’s authority. To prejudge such authority or imply that it is unnecessary, footling, or merely by leave of Washington and London is to demean it. It suggests that authority has not meaning unless synonymous with American and British foreign policy. The saber-rattling and bombast of the past week must make it harder rather than easier for Arab and other states to support a war resolution to enforce 1441. By making war seem inevitable, almost welcome, Britain and America seem to invite the defiance not just of Iraq but of a wider world that wonders increasingly what game George Bush and Tony Blair are really about.
—Simon Jenkins

London Daily Mirror (liberal), Jan. 28: That the inspectors failed to find what America told them to look for is a problem principally for Washington's impatient mass murderers. On the evidence presented, the real crime of Iraq is that Saddam Hussein cannot come to a “genuine acceptance of disarmament.” A truly heinous offence. But is that it?… Is this really the foreign policy of a British government or just a doggy response to the poodle master in the White House? Nothing that came from my government last night convinces me that the Blix Report justifies the kind of subtle, warlike language Tony Blair employs to con us into a war that we do not want. The Yanks ignored Blix’s report. They talked at inordinate, self-indulgent length about their mission to kill. It was as if Blix was nix. And in a sense that is true. After a trial lasting more than two months he brought in a verdict of “not proven.” No smoking gun… Bush and Blair now say that Saddam Hussein’s lack of co-operation with U.N. inspectors is sufficient pretext to bomb the living daylights out of his people… The cynicism of London and Washington is breathtaking but predictable.
—Paul Routledge

Jidda Arab News (pro-government, English-language), Jan. 28: There were three possible verdicts on Iraq that U.N. chief arms inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei could have presented to the Security Council yesterday: that Iraq is innocent of the change of developing arms of mass destruction; that investigations are not yet complete and, please, can they have some more time; or that Iraq is guilty. As expected, they have chosen the middle route, but doing so in a way that leaves Iraq firmly in the dock. Their reports were about as damning as they could be without actually finding Iraq guilty. Although it has cooperated “rather well” in the process of investigations in allowing access to sites, it had not complied in the substance of investigations — such as by preventing aerial surveillance and through instances of harassment... Clearly, there is a lot more work to do to either confirm Iraq’s guilt or innocence. The inspectors do not have enough information to come down one way or the other. The United States and the United Kingdom now say that they have definitive proof of Iraq’s guilt…. They have to either put up or shut up.

Moscow The Moscow Times (independent, English-language), Jan. 28: Iraq appears to be on a collision course with the United States. The response to this week's report from chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will indicate just how imminent this collision is… Whatever the agreement between Russia and the United States over Iraq (which both sides would probably rather not see aired publicly), a “post-Saddam” regime in the country may have a different view of the matter. Russia—like its oil companies—will need to tread a fine line between protecting its interests through relations with the Hussein administration and the threat of damaging its interests in a future Iraq by allowing those relations to become too close.

Dubai Gulf News (independent), Jan 27: No “smoking gun” has been found. There are discrepancies [between Iraq’s own report on its weapons program and the requirements of the U.N. resolutions], but they are insufficient to warrant extreme action. Only recently has Iraq shown signs of cooperation, but it is not considered a hindrance to effective inspections. More time is required to make an effective assessment of whether Iraq is concealing any weapons of mass destruction…. While sympathies may lie in support of any removal of the present Iraqi leadership, more than the “gut reaction” of American President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is required…. Many people are still awaiting clear answers not only from Iraq, but also from America.

Melbourne The Age (centrist), Jan 29: The Security Council should continue to support the inspectors, granting [them] the extra time [they requested]…. But the council must not allow Saddam Hussein to imagine that he can spin out the process indefinitely. Those members of the Security Council who have argued most strongly against any unilateral action against Iraq by the United States have a special responsibility here…. So far, the Australian government has supported the Security Council in its attempts to make Iraq disarm, while leaving open the possibility that Australian forces, now deployed to the Gulf, could join the United States in an attack on Iraq that does not have the explicit warrant of the Security Council. Some in the Bush administration may wish to use the evidence cited in Blix's report as the justification for such an attack, relying only on the implicit authority to take military action that they say is contained in the existing U.N. resolutions. Australia should use whatever influence it has, in Washington and with other U.N. members, to argue that the better course now is to give the Security Council time to formulate a resolution that will force Saddam Hussein's regime to disarm.

Toronto The Globe and Mail (centrist), Jan. 28: Iraq may have succeeded in sowing disarray within the Western alliance focused against it. Baghdad knows that. Though its actions are deemed unacceptable, the Bush administration's seeming determination to launch a pre-emptive attack is arousing opposition internationally. That is especially so without hard evidence that Iraq now poses a significant threat to global stability…. In any case, the United States seems to have little intention of invading Iraq before late February, after the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. That gives Washington time to make its case clearer and to seek stronger international support. Meanwhile, the inspections process should continue, and Iraq should recognize that the simplest way to avoid war is to change its tactics.

Toronto The Toronto Star (liberal), Jan 28: U.N. weapons inspection reports underscore the two conflicting realities of Iraq. On the one hand, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime is almost certainly in breach of at least minor elements of United Nations resolutions ordering him to disarm. Technically, this is justification for war. On the other hand, the reports demonstrate that Iraq poses no serious threat to any other nation. Which is a good reason not to go to war.
—Thomas Walkoms

Glasgow The Herald (independent), Jan 28: Saddam Hussein had to pass two tests: on process and on substance. He was hardly a model student on the first, orchestrating demonstrations outside U.N. offices, encouraging “disturbing instances of harassment,” and refusing to guarantee the safety of U2 spy planes. On the second test, substance, he failed miserably…. There are sins of omission, certainly, but as yet there is no smoking gun… It is right to keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein, a tyrant who has shown a consistent contempt for the rules. But for the international community to enforce its will in a way that will command the widest possible support it must also play by the rules.

Singapore The Straits Times (pro-government) Jan 28: The Americans are saying that Iraq has to prove a negative. In fact, the United States and Britain have argued that Iraq had already been in “material breach” of Security Council demands even before the weapons inspectors started their work. From that perspective, the Blix report only helps to dramatize the Iraqi’s misconduct, an argument that U.S. officials will continue to make in the coming days. But Blix was also careful to stop short of saying that Iraq has violated its disarmament obligations…. Most observers are predicting that the Bush administration will agree to postpone an attack on Iraq until the first or second week of March, and use the month of February to mobilize American and international support for using military force against Iraq. Many U.S. officials have in recent days been engaged in a major “spin control” exercise here and abroad aimed at ensuring that the U.S. and global news coverage of the Blix report would focus on its glass-is-half-empty aspects.

Kingston The Jamaica Observer (privately-owned, independent), Jan. 28: With doubts still lingering in the minds of the Chinese, French, Russians, and Germans, we urge the United States to abide by the request of Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, for a few months to complete the weapons search…. His request has so far found favour with those nations that would rather see a peaceful solution to the crisis. We agree with the position being put forward by these countries. We believe that any military action being taken against Iraq should be supported by hard evidence that Saddam Hussein has breached his obligations to the United Nations….

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