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USIS Washington 
File

17 March 1998

COHEN SAYS "BURDEN OF PROOF IS ON SADDAM HUSSEIN"

(Cites growing threat from weapons of mass destruction) (720)

By Jacquelyn S. Porth

USIA Security Affairs Writer



Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen says the burden of proof is on
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to show that he is in full compliance with
all relevant United Nations resolutions concerning the elimination of
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.


"The key measure of success is not simply the access granted by Iraq
nor the discoveries made by the (U.N.) inspectors," Cohen said March
17, but the type of evidence and proof that the Iraqi president
"offers that he is being truthful."


The secretary told members of the National Press Club that Saddam
Hussein "must, once and for all, make a full, final and complete
declaration about what he has and what he has destroyed," reconciling
"his declarations with his deeds."


After seven years of deceit, deception and delay, Cohen said, Iraq
cannot be trusted. "The world agrees that Saddam must fully comply
with these inspections" by the U.N. Special Commission "or else" he
faces the severest consequences, Cohen said.


The international community must remain vigilant, he stressed, because
Saddam Hussein "still has many promises to keep and the inspectors
still have miles to go before Iraq can insist on sanctions relief."


In response to questions, Cohen said Saddam Hussein must demonstrate
what happened to all Iraqi weapons systems. "If he's able to do that,
then I think there's an opportunity to provide sanctions relief," he
noted. "Absent that, the burden remains upon him."


The secretary defended the level of support in the Gulf from U.S.
allies, noting that 25 nations were lined up "to be with the United
States should military action become necessary." He named Canada,
Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom as examples. He also
said Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries in the region had been
asked to share the burden of the U.S. military presence.


While the expressions of support by some nations in the region may not
have been as vocal or visible as members of Congress may have wished,
Cohen insisted that support for U.S. policy was still strong. Many
regional countries still fear Saddam Hussein, Cohen explained. They
have seen what Saddam Hussein has done in the past in terms of using
chemical and biological weapons against Iranians as well as Iraqi
Kurds, Cohen added, and they realize what he might be able to do in
the future.


While the U.S. presence in the region benefits a number of Gulf
countries, Cohen stressed, "it's really primarily in our interests."
Although members of Congress have been critical of the level of allied
burdensharing there, the secretary pointed out that it is the United
States that really benefits from stability in that region.


Cohen's concerns about weapons of mass destruction go well beyond
Iraq. There are about 25 nations, he said, that already possess such
systems or are developing them. And, with the rapid spread of
technology, the secretary said, more state-sponsored and transnational
groups will be able to acquire weapons of mass destruction at low
cost.


This is a reality and not "a scare tactic," Cohen emphasized. As
evidence of the seriousness of the issue, the secretary said he had
just taken the second in a series of inoculations against the anthrax
virus. And, he said, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has
also begun his vaccinations.


"The levels and volume of chemical and biological munitions is
spreading rapidly," Cohen warned, which is "one of the reasons we have
tried to work cooperatively with so many countries in terms of the
Chemical Weapons Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention to try to
persuade countries to open up their systems so that we can really have
a serious reduction in these very deadly kinds of systems."


The secretary also announced the establishment of 10 Rapid Assessment
and Initial Detection (RAID) units to enhance the Defense Department's
ability to respond to domestic incidents involving weapons of mass
destruction. Each RAID team will be made up of 22 National Guards with
the mission of providing early assessment, initial detection and
technical advice to local civilian authorities responding to a
domestic biological and chemical attack.