US `keeping all options open' in Iraqi weapons stand-off

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The Independent Online
US President Bill Clinton said yesterday he saw no cause for optimism in the stand-off with Iraq, and refused to rule out any options for dealing with Baghdad.

President Clinton voiced his pessimism after the apparent failure of a UN mission to persuade Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to end Iraq's ban on participation by Americans in a UN weapons inspection team.

Asked if he saw any reason for hope, he deliberately stressed each word as he said: "No, I don't." Speaking to reporters at the White House, he made clear he was keeping open all options in dealing with Iraq.

The Iraqis have barred US citizens from the UN teams trying to keep Saddam from acquiring offensive weapons banned by the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire agreement.

A three-member UN delegation sent to Baghdad was returning to New York yesterday after its abortive mission, and was expected to report to the UN Security Council on Monday.

"They will report and then the international community must decide what to do. I think it is important that we be resolute and I think it would be a mistake to rule in or out any particular course of action at this time." President Clinton said, but he gave no indication of any imminent international action against Iraq.

"We have to counsel with our allies. We have to give them a chance to to be heard and see what we're going to do. But I have seen no indication that any of our allies are weakening on this. Everyone seems to be united in their determination to restore the inspections on terms that the United Nations decides, not on Saddam Hussein's terms."

US Defense Secretary William Cohen told ABC's Good Morning Today that "some action has to be taken" against Iraq.

- Reuters, Washington