Tuesday, March 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

War clouds thicken; USA, UK shed diplomacy 
Annan pulls out arms inspectors from Iraq; 
Suspends oil-for-food programme

US Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks at the State Department in Washington on Monday. Powell said the "time for diplomacy has passed" for Iraq and he could think of nothing that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could do diplomatically to stay in power. — Reuters photo

An Iraqi Kurdish family atop a pick-up truck drive through the northern Iraqi town of Dohuk to flee up to the north in fear of a possible war on Monday. — Reuters photo

United Nations, March 17
A war on Iraq appeared certain tonight with US, Britain and Spain withdrawing their resolution for UN backing and asking President Saddam Hussein to leave the country.

The USA also said that the “diplomatic window” had closed and asked the UN to pull out its weapons inspectors, even as foreign missions began evacuating their staff from Baghdad. The USA, the UK and Spain withdrew the resolution after Russia and France threatened to veto it.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said that President Bush would make an address to the nation at 0100 GMT (0630 IST tomorrow) in which he would tell President Saddam that to avoid a military conflict, the Iraqi leader “has no other choice than to leave the country.”

“The diplomatic window is now closed and the UN Security Council has failed to act to enforce its own resolution,” he said.

Announcing the dramatic decision to withdraw the resolution, British Ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock said: “We have had to conclude that council consensus will not be possible.”

The American Ambassador to the UN, Mr John Negroponte, said he thought the voting could have been close. “But we regret that in the face of an explicit threat, vote counting became a secondary consideration.” Immediately thereafter, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabilere said it showed that a majority of Security Council members were against a war on Iraq.


UN Secretary General Kofi Annan answers questions from the media about the status of diplomatic efforts to avert a possible war in Iraq, as he stands outside the UN Security Council chambers on Monday at the UN Headquarters in New York. — Reuters photo

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council today he had ordered the evacuation of all UN staff from Iraq and suspended the oil-for-food programme there, a council diplomat said.

The diplomat was in the council chamber when Mr Annan announced that he regarded the mandates of the six-year-old oil-for-food programme, the UN arms inspectors and the UN peacekeeping force on the Iraq-Kuwait border as “suspended”.

In Baghdad, Mr Saddam Hussein told senior military officials, telecast by Iraqi television, “if God wanted, by God, we will fight them with daggers, swords and sticks if other arms were scarce.”

He said “if the enemy opens the battle on a wide scale, we will open wherever there is sky, land and water on the entire earth.”

Mr Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, today said the US advice to pull out UN weapons inspectors from Baghdad was given late last night both to his Vienna-based nuclear agency hunting for atomic weaponry and to the New York-based teams looking for biological and chemical weapons.

“Late last night ... I was advised by the US government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad,” Mr ElBaradei told the IAE’s Board of Governors today. He said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Security Council were informed and that the council would take up the issue later.

UN officials have said the roughly 60 inspectors and support staff in Iraq could be evacuated in as little as 48 hours.

Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix heads into a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday. — AP/PTI photo

No one has yet given the order for the inspectors and support staff to begin pulling out. In fact, chief inspector Hans Blix said he planned to present a plan to the Security Council tomorrow that would extend the inspections regime by several months.

“There is no evacuation order yet, and should there be one, it would come after the Security Council session,” a UN official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The inspectors’ spokesman, Hiro Ueki, later said the disarmament teams could “leave on a short notice” if given the order by Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

“We have been prepared to leave on short notice,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US and British embassies in Kuwait today urged their nationals to leave the country at once amid rising tensions with neighbouring Iraq.

“All US citizens in Kuwait are urged to depart immediately,” Washington’s advisory said.

The latest decision is “the result of an overall assessment of the security situation in the region” due to the threat of a US-led war on Iraq, it said. Agencies


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