On Feb. 21, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix ordered Iraq to destroy its Al Samoud-2 missiles and related equipment by March 1, saying their range violated a 93-mile limit for defensive weapons imposed after the Persian Gulf War. That left President Saddam Hussein with a stark choice: destroy the missiles and lose a major part of his defenses but bolster the case that he is complying with the United Nations, or defy the order and enhance the U.S. position that Iraq is not cooperating with international mandates and must disarm or be disarmed by force. Iraq has gone back and forth over whether it would destroy the missiles and Blix seemed to vacillate on whether Iraq was making more of an effort to disarm.
France and Germany continued to lead European nations that believe that an invasion is premature and that weapons inspectors should be given more time.
Following is a day-by-day look at the week's developments in the Iraq crisis:
Iraqi Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin said that Blix's order was "under deep consideration," but that the government viewed the issue as a "technical matter" that could be resolved by negotiations with Blix.
Blix, in an interview with Time magazine, appeared skeptical of Iraq and its intentions and said that the threat of war with the United States was part of the reason that Hussein last year agreed to weapons inspections. He also said Iraq had "no credibility" about its statements concerning its weapons programs. He called it "a bit odd" that a country that keeps meticulous records cannot back up its claims that it has destroyed toxic substances.
The United States, Britain and Spain introduced a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council that declared that Iraq has wasted its "final opportunity" to disarm and establishes a groundwork for an invasion. The draft resolution is designed to give cover both to those countries that seek to join the United States in an invasion of Iraq and those that do not want to be seen as authorizing a war. Phrases seen as a trigger for war -- such as "serious consequences" -- are contained in the preamble and carry no legal weight. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the resolution would give Iraq a period of "two weeks or so" to disarm.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered a counterproposal. They proposed strengthening the U.N. weapons inspection process, a move that would have the effect of stretching out the compliance window for four months or more -- into the summer, when heat would make invasion virtually impossible. The plan would require the weapons inspectors to set certain dates by which Iraq would have to take specific actions to show that it was eliminating chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs or that it already has done so.
In an interview with CBS News, Hussein said he would not follow Blix's order to destroy the Al Samoud-2 missiles.
Bush took an uncompromising tone on Iraq and said nothing short of "full disarmament" could forestall the use of military force. The president said Hussein "has been successful at gaming the system," making seeming compromises to give ammunition to members of the Security Council that want to prevent military action.
Bush's remarks to reporters came shortly after Blix said Iraq had provided new documents describing disposal of some banned weapons systems in the early 1990s as well as admitting it had found a bomb filled with an unidentified liquid at a site used to destroy biological weapons. Blix described the Iraqi actions as "positive." On Wednesday, Blix tempered his remarks, saying that Iraq's actions did not represent "full cooperation or a breakthrough."
Sources said the Pentagon had increased its estimate of the cost of an Iraq invasion to up to $95 billion from an earlier, somewhat vague estimate of about $50 billion made by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in January. The long-term costs of occupying and rebuilding Iraq would be additional. But other Pentagon officials said no good estimates exist because of the unpredictability of the course of the war.
Bush outlined a vision of a post-invasion, "liberated" Iraq that could "show the power of freedom to transform" the Middle East "by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions."
Bush said little new in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, but it was the first time he offered a broad view of what he believes Iraq would look like after Hussein. Officials said the speech was designed to assure the Arab world and Europe that Bush wasn't seeking to conquer Iraq. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region." He said ousting Hussein would help foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians as well as deprive terrorists "of a wealthy patron."
Iraq said that it agreed "in principle" to accede to Blix's demands that it destroy its Al Samoud-2 missiles but first wanted to hold talks with weapons inspectors over how and when to do it. Only two days earlier Hussein said in a CBS News interview that he saw no reason to destroy the missiles and it was unclear whether the letter to Blix was an Iraqi attempt to delay a U.S. attack rather than a commitment to destroy the missiles. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that even if the missiles were destroyed, Iraq would still be far short of full disarmament. France, which had said Iraq had to destroy the missiles, praised the decision. British Prime Minister Tony Blair dismissed its seriousness, saying he knew Iraq would change its tune later in the week as the deadline approached for Blix's report to the Security Council on Saturday.
Blix, in a draft of a that report written before Iraq's seeming change of position on the missiles, said Iraq "could have made greater efforts to find remaining proscribed items or credible evidence showing absence of such items. The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far."
The Security Council held a three-hour debate that was quite heated, according to sources. France, Germany, Russia and China continued to press for inspections to go on, while the United States, Britain and Spain pushed their resolution that would pave the way for an invasion.
Bush needs the votes of nine of 15 members on the Security Council for approval. Any of the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- can veto a Security Council action. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that his nation would be prepared to veto the U.S. resolution in the interests of "international stability."
-- James L. Rowe Jr.