Released: Nov 12, 1997
WASHINGTON -- Iraq may be playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship with U.N. inspectors, but President Clinton and Vice President Gore say the inspections and U-2 over-flights must continue.
The president and vice president spoke as the United Nations considered sanctions against Iraq for blocking inspectors on the ground and threatening to shoot down U-2 aircraft that passed over Iraqi territory.
Inspectors and surveillance flights are trying to verify that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass destruction. These would include nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
"I want every single American to understand what is at stake here," Clinton said. "These inspectors, since 1991, have discovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction potential than were destroyed in Iraq in the entire Gulf War. They are doing what they should be doing. They must get back to work. And the international community must demand it."
Gore said that Iraq must observe the U.N. resolutions "in every particular." This includes U-2 flights, which resumed Nov. 10. Despite Iraqi threats, the mission was completed without incident.
"We're going to continue activities such as the U-2 flights," Gore said, "and we'll await the results of these [U.N.] discussions and take further steps only after full consultation."
Asked if the U-2 pilot on the Nov. 10 mission was ever in danger, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen replied, "All of our men and women who are stationed around the globe, be they in South Korea, be they in the Gulf region, be they in any part of the world where there is a potential for harm, are in danger.
"Certainly the pilots who fly over the no-fly zones are in danger, and the U-2 pilot ... was in some danger." However, Cohen added that the risk of attack was low.
"We sent a very clear, unequivocal message to Saddam Hussein, through a variety of channels, that were any harm to come to that pilot, any attack to be made upon that aircraft, that it would result in some fairly significant consequences.
"It would be a big mistake for Saddam to have attacked that aircraft, and, fortunately, no such attack came about."