U.N. condemns Iraq's refusal to cooperate with inspectors
U.S.: 'All options' on table
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Web posted at: 9:28 p.m. EST (0228 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- The United Nations Security Council Saturday unanimously condemned Iraq's decision to end all cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors, calling it a "flagrant violation" of U.N. resolutions.
After a closed-door meeting, Britain's U.N. ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, who chairs the council, read a statement to the media saying members had demanded that Iraq rescind "immediately and unconditionally" its decision to stop cooperating with the inspections regime imposed after the Persian Gulf War.
The acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Burleigh, who will chair the council beginning Sunday, said members would proceed "step by step," assess what's happening on the ground and make sure that U.N. personnel in Iraq "are safe and secure."
"I want to underscore the unanimous and very solid and very strong reaction of the council to this really dismaying Iraqi decision," Burleigh said. "I think everyone on the council expressed their surprise and dismay and regret."
In Washington, the White House national security team held a two-hour meeting to review its options in responding to Iraq -- an array of choices that includes military action.
"We take the latest action by the Baghdad regime as a serious threat to the international community," said David Leavy, spokesman for the National Security Council. "We are reviewing all options with the president, and all options remain on the table."
U.S. President Bill Clinton, on a golf outing, did not attend the session but was to be briefed later by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.
In August, Iraq had announced that it would not allow U.N. teams to conduct any new inspections of suspected weapons sites. However, it was still allowing inspectors to monitor sites that they had previously inspected.
But on Saturday, following a joint meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council and the regional command of the ruling Baath Party, headed by President Saddam Hussein, Iraq announced that it would also refuse to cooperate with monitoring.
"The joint meeting decided to halt all kinds of dealings with (weapons inspectors) ... and stop all their activities inside Iraq, including the monitoring, starting from today," the statement said.
However, the statement said that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, which has a working agreement with the United Nations, could continue to probe Iraq's suspected nuclear arms program and monitor weapons sites.
Headed into the Security Council session in New York, Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, intimated that U.N. inspectors might as well pack up and leave Iraq, though he stopped short of saying they would be expelled.
"They have nothing more to do, both on the inspection front and on the monitoring front," he said.
Iraq has charged that the U.N. inspection teams include too many Americans and Britons and that some of them are spies. It wants the Security Council to restructure the weapons inspection program and to fire its current chief, Richard Butler.
Observers say the Iraqi move seems to be a reaction to a Security Council decision Friday to review the country's compliance with U.N. resolutions -- without guaranteeing the lifting of trade sanctions.
Iraq's statement said it would continue to halt cooperation "until the United Nations looks at the issue in an honest and positive way, leading to Iraq's rights to the lifting of the unjust sanctions."
Iraq says the sanctions have caused hardship and led to the deaths of hundreds of its people, including many children.
The United Nations has repeatedly said it will only lift the sanctions -- imposed because of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in the Gulf War -- once it has established that Iraq has fully cooperated with its weapons inspectors.
A refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspectors earlier this year nearly led to military strikes by the United States and Britain.
Correspondent Jane Arraf and Reuters contributed to this report.
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