THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Iraq's latest refusal to cooperate with the international weapons inspectors is unacceptable. Far from hastening the day the international community lifts sanctions against Iraq, as Iraq intends, its failure to live up to its obligations will perpetuate those sanctions and keep the Iraqi economy under tight international control.
As a condition of the cease-fire in the Gulf War, the United Nations demanded and Iraq agreed to account for its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them within fifteen days, and to destroy them. Last February, Iraq reiterated that commitment in an agreement it signed with U.N. Secretary General Annan. In short, Iraq has had it within its power to end the sanctions by meeting this affirmative obligation, letting the inspectors finish their job, and complying with the other relevant Security Council resolutions.
Instead of cooperating, Iraq has spent the better part of this decade avoiding its commitments to the international community. Recent discoveries by the weapons inspectors -- including new documents on chemical munitions used in the Iran-Iraq war and nerve gas residue on Iraqi warheads -- only underscore Iraq's failure to meet its obligations to the world.
Iraq's most recent refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors is another misguided attempt to divide the international community in order to gain the lifting of the sanctions. These sanctions have denied Iraq over $120 billion in resources to rebuild its military and build more weapons of mass destruction. Its current tactics once again will backfire. Unless Iraq reverses course and cooperates fully with the international weapons inspectors, the United States will stop any and all efforts to alter the sanctions regime. This will deny the Iraqi leadership what it wants most: an end to sanctions. Because of the expanded oil-for-food arrangement we created last winter, the Iraqi people will continue to receive the food, medicine and other essential supplies they need.
The burden has always been and remains on Iraq to disclose and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction capability. We remain determined to see that Iraq keeps that commitment.
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