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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 19:01 GMT
Analysis: Delicate and testing time
Iraqi men walk past a painting of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad
Saddam Hussein has proved to be a survivor

Assuming that there are no conditions attached, Saddam Hussein has jumped over the first hurdle placed in front of him by Security Council resolution 1441.

US military aircraft
The US and Britain could go to war if Iraq proves defiant
Iraq had been given seven days in which to accept the resolution which was passed last Friday, 1 November.

It has complied with one day to go.

So the process now moves into a new phase. The inspectors will go in.

As Sherlock Holmes used to say to Dr Watson: "The game's afoot."

'Wise decision'

One personalises this by assigning to Saddam Hussein the decision to comply.

This simply reflects the reality in Iraq and indeed it is what his own national assembly did this week.

It passed a resolution rejecting the UN resolution but left the final say (in fact the only say) to the "wise leadership" of Combatant Leader Saddam Hussein, as one Iraqi newspaper called him.

The vote by the assembly to reject the resolution has enabled Iraq to make its point while the decision by President Hussein has enabled Iraq to get into line with the Security Council.

The leader has taken a wise decision which will, for the moment, avoid war.

The next hurdle

This was no surprise really. Saddam Hussein is a survivor, as we have seen many times, and he had been backed into a corner.

US President George W Bush
Mr Bush will adopt a policy of zero tolerance

He has had no support in the Arab world for his position, with even Syria, the only Arab state on the Security Council voting against him.

Russia also urged him to accept the resolution.

The decision should now enable the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to return to Iraq after an absence of nearly four years.

An advance team is expected to go from Cyprus by 18 November.

Then comes the next hurdle, a higher one.

Iraq has to deliver by Sunday 8 December a list of its weapons programmes and more.

The text of the resolution says that it has to make "a complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other delivery systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles and dispersal systems designed for use on aircraft".

It must also declare "all other chemical, biological and nuclear programmes including any which it claims are for purposes not related to weapons production or material".

Spectre of war

This is quite a list. And Iraq has said that it has no such weapons programmes.

Iraqi parliament votes against accepting UN Resolution on disarmament
The vote by the Iraqi parliament seemed a piece of theatre

So, if it either refuses to make a declaration or makes what turns out to be a false declaration, it runs the grave risk of being in material breach of the resolution.

The truth of its declaration will have to be tested by the inspection teams on the ground and the US is likely to give them time to do their job.

But defiance or delay by Iraq would lead to another meeting of the Security Council to "consider" what to do, with the likelihood that the US and Britain would go to war with him.

US President George W Bush will adopt a policy of "zero tolerance".

Iraq will no doubt continue to try to make further demands.

Saddam Hussein's son Uday, who owns the newspaper Babel, has said that Arab inspectors should join the UN teams, for example.

Uday has also spoken belligerently about launching an attack on those who "seek to do us wrong" if what he calls "diplomacy" does not work.

Uday Hussein had recommended acceptance of the resolution, a signal that his father would take the same course and that the vote by the assembly was a piece of theatre.

Testing time

There will have to be unimpeded access to all sites in Iraq, including the eight so-called presidential sites.

These were the subject of a special agreement between the UN and Iraq in 1998 under which they could be searched only under special conditions, one of which was the presence of senior international diplomats.

One initial search of the sites did take place during which 1,000 buildings were examined.

Nothing was found, but those sites will be the subject of particular care this time.

So, too, will certain more openly industrial sites which have featured in the dossiers on alleged Iraqi weapons programmes by the US Central Intelligence Agency and the British Government.

It is going to be a delicate and testing time.

Because the results of the inspections will determine whether there is to be war or peace.

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See also:

13 Nov 02 | Middle East
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