Bush warns Saddam the 'game is over'
By James Blitz and Krishna Guha in London and Guy Dinmore in,Washington
Published: February 7 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: February 7 2003 4:00
President George W. Bush yesterday told Saddam Hussein that the "game was over" while United Nations arms inspectors warned Iraq it had only days to co-operate fully with demands to disarm.
Last night Baghdad said it was allowing scientists linked to its weapons programmes to be interviewed for the first time without "minders", thus meeting a UN and US demand.
Such a concession was expected by both the UK and US and immediately dismissed as inadequate.
"Saddam Hussein can be expected to begin another round of empty concessions, transparently false denials. No doubt he will play a last-minute game of deception. The game is over," the president said in a statement to reporters with Colin Powell, secretary of state, by his side.
Mr Powell and Mr Bush reiterated their support for second UN resolution that made clear the Security Council stood by its demands.
Mr Bush also disclosed, citing "our sources", that Mr Hussein had recently authorised his field commanders to use chemical weapons.
US and British officials expect further concessions from Baghdad. "We're looking for a substantive change in the policy of his government, not just another way to play cat-and-mouse with the inspectors," Mr Powell said.
The UK yesterday announced it was sending 80 more aircraft to the Gulf. The deployment means 42,000 British military personnel are now committed to a potential war.
Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief UN inspectors, return to Baghdad at the weekend before reporting to the Security Council on February 14 on whether Iraq has complied with resolution 1441.
Following a meeting in London with Tony Blair, Mr Blix and Mr ElBaradei indicated their report could be "critical" in determining whether Mr Hussein was disarmed peacefully or by military means.
"We hope at this late hour that they will come to a positive response. If they do not do that, then our report next Friday will not be what we would like it to be," said Mr Blix.
If the report is negative, the government is anxious to press for a second resolution authorising action. The prime minister acknowledged last night this would be needed to overcome deep public scepticism in Britain about war.
"If there were a second UN resolution, then I think people would be behind me. I think if there is not, then there is a lot of persuading to do," Mr Blair said on Newsnight.
He was, though, confident of persuading countries such as France and Russia to back military action if necessary. "I don't think we will get to the position of vetoes," he said.
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