News

Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

INDEX
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 1998
Briefer: JAMES P. RUBIN

IRAQ
13-14Iraq's Weapons File/Richard Butler's Efforts



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 65
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 1998, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

.............

QUESTION: Question on Iraq - Richard Butler is going to the Security Council next week with new information that could speed up the process of closing Iraq's weapons files. Does that indicate any shift in US thinking on the best way to do that?

MR. RUBIN: No, on the contrary. We've been saying for some time that the best way to solve the crisis Iraq has created with the international community is for them to move away from a posture where they lie, they obstruct, they delay, they deny, they do whatever they can do to not provide the information the UN needs to do its job.

If Iraq were to change it posture from disputing every record the UN shows up with, from not providing the information necessary to prove how much chemical weapons material, how much biological weapons material was produced, this situation would change dramatically. Let's bear in mind inspections are not a necessary prerequisite for sanctions to be lifted. What is a necessary prerequisite for sanctions to be lifted is cooperation. The most simple example I can give you is there are huge discrepancies between the amount of material that UNSCOM knows Iraq has imported to produce, say, media in which biological weapons - and that's not an insult - media in which biological weapons can grow, and there are huge amounts of material that are unaccounted for.

So we know huge amounts were imported. Iraq has only confirmed the fact that a small portion of that has been destroyed. Let me give you an example of that. We don't believe, in the absence of written documentation, that Iraqi officials would go about destroying chemical or biological weaponry. If you were an Iraqi mid-level official, I don't think you'd want to do anything on such a sensitive area unless you were sure that your superiors had ordered you to do so. So in the absence of proving that they've destroyed this material, given Iraq's record, UNSCOM is quite right to say that this remains unclear.

So what we need to see from Iraq is not a game of hide and seek, not a game of, okay, finally we'll let you come visit this place, but a cooperative process where they actually walk UNSCOM through what they did; what they did with the material; what happened to the equipment that's missing, and prove to UNSCOM that there are no more biological weapons components, chemical weapons components in Iraq. That's what's been missing. That's what I would call a positive attitude, instead of not taking a negative attitude.

All we've had from the recent events is a willingness on Iraq's part to not deny access to sites. But we've seen no change in their posture of providing information necessary for UNSCOM to answer the questions. Until we do so, sanctions can't be lifted.

QUESTION: Well, why is Butler now being given the go-ahead to release previously classified information, then, to Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't assume that Ambassador Butler makes those decisions based on anything but his best judgment. He has the confidence of the Secretary and the President, like Ambassador Ekeus before him. We believe both of these gentlemen have been fully capable of determining what they know, what they don't know and why they don't know it. So what I'm suggesting to you is that if Ambassador Butler puts down a plan for Iraqi cooperation that is positive cooperation, not no longer failing to cooperate by allowing access, that would be good news if they were to do that.

But there's no evidence to suggest they're about to do that. We'd be thrilled.

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(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)

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