Iraq's Charm Offensive

  • Share
  • Read Later
With Iraq in desperate need of positive spin, Tariq Aziz launched a media charm offensive in New York Thursday. Between a slew of talk shows, Saddam's deputy prime minister took coffee with TIME's editors.

Often ebullient, even jocular, Aziz answered questions with both patient frankness and that skill of diverting discussion to favorable ground that is essential for diplomats who represent dictators.

He portrayed an Iraq driven to desperate measures by six years of sanctions: "We know and you know America does not support the lifting of sanctions until the Iraqi leadership has gone," he insisted. "The arms inspectors are there to procrastinate."

Alleging U.S. domination of UNSCOM, Aziz intimated that Iraq had proposed to the U.N. that the crisis could be resolved via a new inspection team composed of representatives from Security Council countries (including the U.S.) in equal proportion while insisting that Iraq had nothing to hide on the chemical weapons issue.

On military action, Aziz exhibited the bravado of the doomed: "It makes no difference to Iraq's leadership if another wave of missiles falls on Baghdad, because nothing can be worse than what we are going through at present."

Asked whether Iraq would initiate hostilities by firing on a U-2 spy plane when flights resume Saturday, he was more subtle: "We cannot allow the U-2 to come and take pictures of areas that America might want to attack."

Aziz is personable and capable of evasions unrivaled in eloquence. He joked that the U.N. travel ban would allow him to stay home with his children and grandchildren.

If the ban does result in Aziz being grounded in Baghdad, there's no doubt that he made the best use of his last hours behind enemy lines.