US Hard Line: 'Unconditional' Inspections

Still 'Good to Go'

Despite diplomatic flurries, the UN-Iraq standoff over weapons inspections appeared deadlocked at press time.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said yesterday that Baghdad was prepared to open all of the disputed presidential sites - not excluding "any house, garage, or anything, and one site could include tens of villas and palaces." Access would be for a limited period, and granted to a special UN team formed expressly for this purpose - with its head named by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Sahaf's plan also calls for inclusion on the team of experts from each of the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Russia, Britain, France, and China - as well as 21 other countries represented in UNSCOM.

But the US appears to be holding the line on "unconditional" enforcement of UN resolutions.

The White House said yesterday that it did not see anything new in Iraq's offer. "It would appear at first blush that this could well be an old proposal warmed over," P.J. Crowley, a White House spokesman, told the Monitor.

Yesterday, the commander of US forces in the Middle East said he would soon be ready to strike Iraq.

"I would say we're within a week or so," Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni told reporters on an aircraft taking him and US Defense Secretary William Cohen from Qatar to Bahrain.

Mr. Cohen has been visiting with US forces in the region in preparation for a strike.

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