- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

U.N. experts Tuesday discussed documents turned in by Iraq over the weekend ahead of a scheduled presentation to the U.N. Security Council, top U.S. officials warned of increased risk in the event of war with Saddam Hussein, and the Bush administration said a new tape that may have Osama bin Laden's voice proves Iraq and al Qaida are linked.

A spokesman for the U.N. Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission, headed by Hans Blix, said there were several "internal meetings" to discuss the Iraq documents, which include information on anthrax and missiles.

Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, were in Baghdad over the weekend for talks with senior Iraqi officials. They were to present their report on the status of inspections to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

In Baghdad Sunday, ElBaradei said he expected the U.N. Security Council to give inspectors more time "as long as we are registering good progress."

The United States says Iraq has a record of lying to the international community and is hiding proscribed weapons of mass destruction. It says Baghdad has already been given enough time and has not complied with U.N. resolutions. Baghdad, it contends, poses an immediate threat to global security and must be disarmed by force if necessary.

Washington has urged the United Nations to disarm Iraq or says it will do so alone.

The inspectors are in Iraq following the passage last November of U.N. Security Council Res. 1441, which calls for Iraq's disarmament beginning with the return of the inspectors for the first time in four years and threatening "serious consequences" if Baghdad failed to cooperate with them. Since resuming searches on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus, more than 100 inspectors from UNMOVIC and the IAEA have visited more than 500 sites across Iraq that are suspected of involvement in Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

On Sunday, President Bush said the United Nations was facing a "moment of truth" over the Iraq issue and the world body had to decide if it would remain "relevant."

In Washington Tuesday, two U.S. officials — Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and FBI Director Robert Mueller — said the threat of war increased the risk to the United States.

"The intensification of geopolitical risk, makes discerning the economic path ahead especially difficult," Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee.

Mueller, speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, said though he believed the most serious terrorist threat was from non-state actors, "we remain vigilant against the potential threat posed by state sponsors of terrorism."

He placed Iraq atop that list.

"Iraq's WMD program poses a clear threat to our national security, a threat that will certainly increase in the event future military action against Iraq," he said.

At the same hearing, CIA Director George Tenet said he believed the al Qaida network, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on New York and Washington, still posed the No. 1 threat to the United States.

"We see disturbing signs that al Qaida has established a presence in both Iran and Iraq," he said.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq and al Qaida were linked, furthering the U.S. case for war against Saddam.

On Tuesday, Powell said the pan-Arab Al Jazeera network would air a new tape bearing what is believed to be bin Laden's voice, adding the tape would prove his assertion at the Security Council.

"I read the transcript of what bin Laden, or who we believe to be bin Laden, will be saying on Al Jazeera during the course of the day, and you will be seeing this as the day unfolds, where once again he speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq," he told the Senate Budget Committee.

Also Tuesday, the White House bemoaned again France, Germany and Belgium's decision Monday to veto military aid to Turkey, the alliance's predominantly Muslim member that borders Iraq. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States was "disappointed" with the decision. He said Washington would continue to be "strong and persistent" in ensuring Turkey has the military protection it needs in case it should be attacked by Iraq for backing a forceful disarmament of Saddam's regime.

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