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Monday, November 16, 1998 Published at 02:27 GMT


US pledge to help opposition




[ image: Bill Clinton wants Iraq to be 'law-abiding']
Bill Clinton wants Iraq to be 'law-abiding'
President Clinton has said the United States will co-operate further with Iraqi opposition groups in an effort to oust the government of Saddam Hussein.

Saying that the Iraqi president endangered the wellbeing of his people, Mr Clinton said a new government is needed in Baghdad.

"What we want and what we will work for is a government in Iraq that represents and respects its people - not represses them. And one committed to live in peace with its neighbours," he said.

The president said that over the past year Washington had deepened its involvement with opposition groups.

"He was not calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein," said US Defense Secretary William Cohen.

"What he was saying is that we are prepared and will work with opposition forces or groups to try to bring about at some future time a more democratic type of regime that's more responsive to its people and not engage in the harsh and brutal repression of them," he said.

Money for opposition groups

Last month the Clinton administration signed the Liberation of Iraq act, which authorised $97m to arm and finance opposition groups.

When the president signed the statement on 31 October, he said he wanted Iraq to become a "freedom-loving and law-abiding" member of the international community.

"The evidence is overwhelming that such changes will not happen under the current Iraq leadership," he said.

But although the president signed the act, the administration has previously resisted such an approach, fearing a split or fragmented Iraq.

Critics also say that the opposition is too weak to mount a credible challenge to the government.

Since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the debate has raged over whether US forces should have driven on into Iraq after ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait and removed President Saddam from power.

At the time former President George Bush ruled against it, saying it would have gone beyond the United Nations mandate under which the US-led international coalition was operating.

But analysts says the US was also responding to other geopolitical interests in Iran and Turkey.





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