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Saturday, 11 May, 2002, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Pentagon doubtful on Iraq inspections
UN weapon inspectors in Baghdad, Iraq in 1998
UN-Iraq dialogue could prove crucial to any US decision
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By Nick Childs
BBC Pentagon correspondent
line

The American Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, has said it is not easy to envisage the re-establishment of a fully effective weapons inspection regime in Iraq.


It's not going to be an easy task to have an inspection regime that can give us the kind of confidence we need to have

American Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz
The United Nations has been holding talks with Iraq about resuming inspections against the background of reports that Washington is considering military action to try to unseat the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.

The outcome of the current dialogue between the UN and Iraq over new weapons inspections could be crucial to the prospects of a new confrontation between Washington and Baghdad.

But Pentagon officials have made no secret of the fact that they are sceptical that new inspections can eliminate the security threat which President Bush says Iraq represents.

Forging support

In his State of the Union address, Mr Bush labelled the country - along with Iran and North Korea - as part of an axis of evil pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Israeli soldier in Bethlehem
The Mid-East conflict is central to thinking about Iraq

Mr Wolfowitz says that even at their most effective, previous UN inspectors had to rely on defectors to provide crucial information on Iraq's weapons programmes.

"It's not going to be an easy task to have an inspection regime that can give us the kind of confidence we need to have, " Mr Wolfowitz said.

But it is thought the State Department believes that pursuing inspections could help in forging international support for a possible new showdown with Iraq.

Mid East conflict

There is also a debate in Washington over whether action against Iraq is possible before the current Israeli-Palestinian tensions have been defused.

Mr Wolfowitz, who has a reputation as one of the Bush administration's more hawkish members, says the more progress that can be made on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more support the US will be able to garner for other operations.

But he also suggests that the ability to make progress on the peace process is linked to US regional strength.

It was no accident, he says, that the breakthrough with the Oslo peace process came after the US victory over Iraq in 1991.

See also:

07 May 02 | Americas
UN agrees new Iraq sanctions regime
09 Jan 02 | Middle East
UN concern at blocked Iraq deals
04 May 02 | Middle East
Analysis: UN and Iraq 'talk shop'
03 May 02 | Middle East
Iraq-UN weapons talks end
07 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq 'smart sanctions' postponed
30 Oct 01 | Middle East
Iraq condemns US 'aggression'
02 Jul 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Iraq wins sanctions battle
19 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iraq
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