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Albright to Urge Use of Force Against an Uncooperative Iraq

By Thomas W. Lippman
washington post
washington

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright will travel to Europe and Saudi Arabia beginning on Thursday with the message that the United States sees no alternative to military force if Iraq does not comply with U.N. Security Council efforts to end its weapons development program, senior U.S. officials said Tuesday.

In addition, Defense Secretary William Cohen is planning to travel to the Persian Gulf region early next month to consult Saudi Arabia and other countries once President Clinton has made a final decision to pursue military action, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said. That decision could be made as early as Wednesday, once the President's State of the Union address is behind him, officials said.

In a warning to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in remarks prepared for the delivery in his speech Tuesday night Clinton said, "I speak for everyone in this chamber, Republicans and Democrats, when I say to Saddam Hussein: You cannot defy the will of the world. You have used weapons of mass destruction before. We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."

Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspectors assigned to look for such weapons triggered the latest confrontation between the Security Council and Iraq. Last week Richard Butler, the Australian diplomat who heads the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) told the security council that Iraqi intransigence made it impossible for his teams to do their work.

Cohen, Albright and the president's other senior advisers on international affairs met at the White House Tuesday to discuss Iraq for the third time in four days. Nothing they or their spokesmen said indicated any change from the strong signals the administration emitted last weekend that without Iraqi compliance military action is inevitable.

A diplomatic solution is still preferable, Bacon said, but "so far diplomacy has not been successful."

Bacon noted that "there obviously are a number of ways to deal with the weapons-of-mass-destruction challenge. One is to go after the stockpiles themselves. Another is to go after the way they're delivered. A third is to go after the production facilities and the facilities that are associated with production. Those are all things that we would look at."

With the decision to use force apparently all but final, officials are now turning to questions of when attacks might occur and against what targets. Besides the Albright and Cohen trips, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's strongest supporter in the face-off with Saddam Hussein, is due in Washington Feb. 5.

Bacon said it is unlikely that U.S. ground troops would be used, indicating that the campaign will be conducted by U.S. combat aircraft based in the Persian Gulf region and aboard aircraft carriers.

The United States has two carriers in the Persian Gulf. There will be a brief period in February when three carriers will be in the region as one arrives to relieve another, but Bacon said that "under all reasonable or expected scenarios, two carriers will be enough to do the job."

Albright will confer with her French, Russian and British counterparts on Friday and Saturday, officials said. Then she will fly to Israel for a new round of meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76 and Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, who were in Washington last week to hear new U.S. suggestions for resolving the impasse in their peace negotiations.

Then Albright will turn her attention back to Iraq, traveling to Saudi Arabia and probably to Kuwait and Bahrain, the countries most threatened by Iraq and most closely associated with the U.S. effort to contain Iraq.

Albright, Cohen and other officials have stated repeatedly time and time again that the U.S. objective is to obtain Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf war requiring the destruction of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and of its ability to manufacture them. But many foreign officials believe that Washington's true objective is the downfall of Saddam Hussein and his methods.

"Few doubt that there is going to be a military strike, but we can't say whether we would support or not because we don't know what they are going to do or what the objectives are," an Arab ambassador said Tuesday. "Another strike against the infrastructure will not have support, because that would be a strike at the people of Iraq, who are not to blame. If the strike is aimed at Saddam, at his palaces, at the Republican Guard, then that's different, but the U.S. has to clearly differentiate."