SYDNEY - Former U.N. arms inspector Richard Butler said Tuesday that Washington was promoting "shocking double standards" in considering taking unilateral military action to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
Butler, who led U.N. inspection teams in Iraq until Baghdad kicked them out in 1998 (Common Dreams Editor's note: This is not true. See: http://www.fair.org/extra/0210/inspectors.html), said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein undoubtedly possessed weapons of mass destruction, and was trying to "cheat" his way again out of the latest U.N. demand to disarm.
Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler gestures during his seminar presentation entitled "Weapons of Mass Destruction - the Iraq Case and All the Others,' in Sydney on Jan. 28, 2003. Butler said Tuesday that Washington was promoting 'shocking double standards' in considering taking unilateral military action to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Photo by Tim Wimborne/Reuters
But a U.S. attack, without United Nations backing, and without any effort to curb the possession of weapons of mass destruction globally, would be a contravention of international law and sharpen the divide between Arabs and the West.
"The spectacle of the United States, armed with its weapons of mass destruction, acting without Security Council authority to invade a country in the heartland of Arabia and, if necessary, use its weapons of mass destruction to win that battle, is something that will so deeply violate any notion of fairness in this world that I strongly suspect it could set loose forces that we would deeply live to regret," Butler said.
Butler's successor as the chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, reported Monday to the 15-member Security Council that Baghdad had only reluctantly complied with its latest demand to disarm.
Washington is pressing the United Nations to take firm action but says it is prepared to go it alone and has amassed a considerable military force in the region.
Butler, addressing a conservative Australian think-tank, The Sydney Institute, said the stated U.S. motive -- to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction -- lacked credibility because of Washington's failure to deal with others on the same terms.
Countries such as Syria are suspected of possessing chemical or biological warfare capabilities, he said.
U.S. allies Israel, Pakistan and India have nuclear arsenals but have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The United States and other permanent Security Council members were themselves the possessors of the world's largest quantities of nuclear weapons, he said.
"Why are they permitting the persistence of such shocking double standards?" Butler said.
He said that, instead of beating the drums of war, the United States should propose an international mechanism -- similar to the Security Council -- to enforce the application of the three main conventions controlling the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry.
It should also take the lead by reducing its own stockpiles.
"I hope we don't have to await the train wreck before we decide to change history," Butler said.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd