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The Birmingham Post comment: Saddam's just toying with us.

Clare Short says she supports attempts to make Saddam Hussein obey United Nations demands to disarm.

She must know the only reason there has been any co-operation from Iraq so far is because of the threats of force from America and Britain.

If she was ever in any doubt, this point was made clear by Hans Blix, head of the weapons inspection team, on Friday.

He told the Security Council Iraq had allowed his team to access sites, adding 'this may well be due to strong outside pressure'.

Dr Blix wasn't referring to eloquent speeches by the French Foreign Minister, or even by Britain's Jack Straw. He was referring to the military build-up on Iraq's borders.

The problem is that Saddam does not seem to have come to the conclusion that he must genuinely disarm, in order to prevent armed force being used.

Inspectors still have a long list of unanswered questions, about chemical bombs, anthrax and nerve gas which remain unaccounted for.

They have also uncovered a prohibited unmanned plane, which Iraq was supposed to tell them about but didn't, which could be used to drop biological weapons. Saddam's response to threats of force has been to drip-feed the odd piece of information and provide, as Dr Blix puts it, co-operation on 'process' but not 'substance'.

While inspectors have been allowed to enter facilities, Iraq has failed to tell them where they actually need to go - to show them to the weapons, or to the evidence of their destruction, as the UN has demanded.

Not one nation, including France, Russia or Germany, claims that Saddam has actually obeyed last November's UN resolution.

The Iraqi dictator seems to believe he is involved in a game, in which he can save his skin if he manages to divide the rest of the world and convince enough countries that he will co-operate fully one day, if only they give him more time.

He's wrong about that. But if he continues to believe it, war is certain.

Clare Short must ask herself this - has she helped to convince Saddam that he must genuinely disarm?

Or has she helped to convince him that the threats will never become a reality, as long as he continues to play the game. In other words, that they're not real threats at all.

It's usually said that Britain and America are following exactly the same policy - one dictated by George Bush.

That's not quite right. President Bush's policy may well have been to remove the Iraqi dictator by force right from the beginning.

Tony Blair also sees Saddam as a threat. But he, along with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, developed a second option for dealing with him.

This was to give Saddam one final chance to co-operate with UN resolutions dating back to 1991 - but this time to tell him that if he refused, those resolutions would at last be enforced, after 12 long years.

The Security Council approved this policy unanimously, in November. Clare Short seemed happy to support it at the time, and quite rightly.

The policy was not reckless then, and neither is it now. And it only makes sense if the threats are real.
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Title Annotation:Comment
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Mar 11, 2003
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