Iraq acceded to the demands of U.N. weapons inspectors and on March 1 began destroying its Al Samoud-2 missiles, whose range, the inspectors said, exceeds the 93-mile limit imposed by the United Nations. President Bush dismissed the Iraqi move as a "game of deception" and continued to demand a complete disarmament. Bush held his first prime time news conference in nearly a year-and-a-half on Thursday. On Friday, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, gave a mixed review of Iraqi behavior to the Security Council. He said destruction of the missiles was a real step toward disarmament, but noted that Iraqi cooperation has dragged in many areas. Meanwhile, U.S. plans to open a northern front in any invasion to disarm Iraq were dealt a serious blow when the Turkish parliament last weekend refused to allow U.S. troops to deploy there.
Following is a day-by-day look at developments last week in the Iraq crisis:
Iraq, which destroyed four Al Samoud-2 missiles on Saturday, destroyed six more. But Gen. Amir Saadi, the top science adviser to President Saddam Hussein, said the nation would stop if the United States continues to prepare to invade Iraq.
The Pentagon announced that it had ordered another 60,000 troops to deploy to the Gulf region, bringing to about 235,000 the total number of ground forces there. By the end of the week officials were estimating that total deployment to the region will be about 300,000 troops, although some won't arrive until April.
Iraq destroyed a few more missiles and U.N. officials cautiously praised the action. But the White House, reinforcing the notion that war is inevitable, called the destruction a distraction. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said, erroneously as it turned out, that Hussein had "denied he had these weapons" and postulated that the denial is one more reason to distrust the Iraqi president. But the Al Samoud-2 missiles were among the few new items Iraq listed in a weapons declaration last December.
The main alliance of Persian Gulf states failed to support a proposal by the United Arab Emirates demanding that Hussein and his government go into exile to avert a war. Although most of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council actually approve of the plan, the issue is so delicate that they said what is needed is the endorsement of the entire Arab League, which dodged the proposal at a weekend meeting.
A Washington Post-ABC poll showed that while a majority of Americans support military strikes against Iraq, many have reservations about an invasion, especially without a U.N. authorization. Republican men (89 percent) and Republican women (82 percent) are most supportive of the war. On the other hand, only slightly more than a third of Democratic women and nonwhites approve of an Iraq invasion. Overall, about 59 percent support war with or without reservation, while 37 percent oppose it with the rest having no opinion, according to the Post poll.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States is aiming for a brief conflict in Iraq that minimizes civilian casualties. Speaking at a breakfast meeting with reporters, Meyers said that any war with Iraq would be fought on two fronts, whether or not Turkey allows U.S. troops to deploy there, and could be over before a battle for the capital, Baghdad.
The foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany said in a joint statement that they would "not allow" a Security Council resolution that authorized war against Iraq. At a meeting in Paris, the three nations said that Iraq is showing much more cooperation in disarming and that there was no need to invade that nation now to force disarmament.
Blix also said that Iraq was showing "a greater measure of cooperation" by destroying Al Samoud missiles and permitting Iraqi weapons scientists to meet privately with U.N. inspectors.
In a measure of further international pressure on the United States to back off an invasion of Iraq, Pope John Paul II sent Cardinal Pio Laghi, a former Vatican ambassador to the United States and Bush family friend, to tell the president that an invasion without further U.N. authorization would be both "immoral" and "unjust." Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president rejects that view.
At home, thousands of students at about 300 high schools and colleges across the country protested a potential Iraq invasion.
Bush said he wanted a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution that would authorize forcible disarmament of Iraq, even if it is likely that the 15-member body would reject the proposal. "We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. . . . It's time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam." It was clear he is prepared to attack Iraq without the authorization of the Security Council.
Bush made the remarks at his first prime time news conference in 17 months and only hours before Blix made his report Friday to the Security Council on Iraqi cooperation and compliance. Bush said the inspections process has become a "willful charade" and that Hussein was a "cancer inside Iraq."
Britain and the United States proposed that the Security Council resolution be amended to give Iraq, in effect, an ultimatum to disarm by March 17 or face the consequences. The resolution, which is sponsored by the United States and Spain, could be voted on as soon as Tuesday. France rejected the ultimatum, calling it a pretext for war.
China said that it agreed with the German, French and Russian position that there is no justification now for a U.S.-led invasion, but it stopped short of saying it would use its veto in the Security Council to overturn any authorization of force.
-- James L. Rowe Jr.