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White House Urges Annan Not to Pay Visit to Rebellious Iraq

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

The White House sought Monday to discourage U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan from traveling to Iraq to mediate the weapons inspection standoff, saying Iraqi President Saddam Hussein already is fully aware of the potential consequences of his actions.

During a similar standoff with Iraq last winter, the White House expressed gratitude to Annan for averting a threatened Western military strike by making a deal with Iraqi officials to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to resume their work.

This time, however, the White House said it isn't interested.

"We don't think more messages need to be delivered," White House spokesman David Leavy said. "Saddam knows what he has to do. He's gotten plenty of messages."

President Clinton met with his top foreign policy advisers Sunday at Camp David and instructed them to conduct detailed reviews of the potential consequences of various options for dealing with Iraq.

Those advisers held a meeting without Clinton late Monday, and they are expected to deliver their answers to the president by midweek, officials said. No decisions on use of force are expected before then.

In what U.S. officials regard as Hussein's most flagrant rebuff of the international community since the war, the Iraqi president issued a blanket refusal 10 days ago to allow U.N. inspectors to continue looking for evidence of weapons programs.

The president has warned Hussein that if he fails to reverse course on inspections, the United States may use military force to prevent further development of weapons of mass destruction and to keep Hussein from threatening Iraqi Kurds and neighboring nations.

White House officials have said they are closer to using force against Iraq than at any other time since the Gulf War, and have suggested that the timing of a military strike is likely to be sooner rather than later.

"This is not a situation that can go on indefinitely," Leavy said.

Clinton administration officials indicated that new diplomatic efforts are not in the works.

"It's a pretty clear situation,"said State Department spokesman James Rubin. "Either Iraq is going to rescind its decision and come back into compliance, or it's not."

A U.N. spokesman said Monday that Annan had no plans to travel to Iraq at this time, but he acknowledged that the secretary-general had received appeals from member governments to intervene.