A little flashback for fun
Evidence on Iraq 'solid,' White House says
Washington ? The White House said Thursday that it possesses solid evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and it rejected Baghdad's denials as having no credibility.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer would not reveal what that evidence is, but he said the United States will provide intelligence to weapons inspectors.
"The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defence would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it," Mr. Fleischer said. "The Iraqi government has proved time and time again to deceive, to mislead and to lie."
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told ABC News that "we don't have weapons of mass destruction. We don't have chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry, but we have equipment which was defined as dual use."
Mr. Fleischer responded: "That statement is just as false as statements that Iraq made in the late '90s when they said they had no weapons of mass destruction, when it was found they indeed did. There is no basis to that."
U.S. officials expect tricky and troubling deception from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in response to a deadline this weekend for listing any hidden weapons and long-range missile programs.
The assumption within the administration is that Mr. Hussein wants to hold on to the weapons and hopes to shift the burden of proof to the United States, a senior U.S. official said anonymously Wednesday. What Mr. Hussein is most likely to do is to provide thousands of documents on such peripheral issues as dual-use equipment and commercial material of potential military application, the official said.
Iraq is required by the UN Security Council to hand over a list by Sunday of any chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in its possession as well as a description of any long-range missile program.
The schedule set by the Security Council calls for a full weapons declaration. In Baghdad, a senior Iraqi official said the list will be turned over to UN and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on Saturday, a day ahead of the deadline.
If the declaration is patently false, the administration may try to rally a consensus on the Council to explicitly approve using force against Iraq.
Iraq protested sharply Wednesday over UN weapons inspectors' surprise intrusion into one of Mr. Hussein's presidential palaces, accusing the arms experts of being spies and staging the palace search as a provocation that could lead to war.
The harshest criticism came from Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, who charged ? in language reminiscent of clashes with inspectors in the 1990s ? that the new teams of UN monitors are gathering intelligence for Washington and Israel. The White House dismissed Iraq's protest as part of its pattern of not co-operating with international inspectors.
If the Iraqi leader denies having weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush will be faced with several options. One is to provide U.S. intelligence to the inspectors to have them disprove the statement. Another is for Mr. Bush to take his case to the Security Council, several other U.S. officials said.
The resolution adopted unanimously by the council on Nov. 8 requires him to consult. At the same time, he has made it plain that he reserves the option of using force against Iraq if Mr. Hussein refuses to disarm.
Above all else, the United States is seeking permission to use foreign bases for combat flights and asking for troops to fight alongside Americans, the official said. Beyond that, there is a need for approval for overflights and other forms of access.
No country is prepared to make an ironclad commitment, and none has been requested, the official said. But most countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf share the U.S. analysis of Mr. Hussein, and the Nov. 8 resolution has accelerated their willingness to take part in contingency planning, he said.