- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

U.S. officials say they are confident that a report today by the chief U.N. weapons inspectors will provide ample justification for a new Security Council resolution clearing the way for a war against Iraq.
Opponents of war, meanwhile, brought their own pressure to bear on Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, with France insisting that Iraq was beginning to improve its behavior and Baghdad saying it was hoping for a "positive report."
"We are not very much concerned about the report," one U.S. official said. "I don't want to prejudge what [the report] will say, but in essence it will make the case that Iraq is still not providing that active cooperation Resolution 1441 called for."
That resolution, adopted unanimously by the Security Council on Nov. 8, promised "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to comply with its demands. The United States and Britain have begun drafting a second resolution that would set a deadline for those consequences to take effect.
The official noted that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met with Mr. Blix in New York on Tuesday to receive a "readout" from his and Mr. ElBaradei's talks in Baghdad last weekend and to "reiterate what the United States strongly believes to be Iraq's noncompliance."
Mr. ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, hinted at the tone of his report in a comment to Reuters news agency while traveling to New York from Vienna, Austria.
"In my view, Iraq still has a chance to exonerate itself, but time is critical," he said. "They can't afford but to have 100 percent cooperation."
Diplomatic sources said Mr. Blix will report a conclusion reached by a team of rocket scientists that Iraq's Al Samoud-2 missiles have a range exceeding the maximum 93 miles allowed for defensive purposes by the United Nations.
U.S. and British officials said yesterday that Iraq's possession of such missiles is a serious violation of its obligations.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz argued that U.N. inspectors had long been aware of the missiles and that the weapons exceeded their permitted range by only 10 miles, suggesting they were at worst a technical violation. Other sources put the range of the missiles at 115 miles.
"This is a serious matter," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said during a hearing of the House Budget Committee yesterday. "It shows continued Iraqi noncompliance."
Asked about planning for a post-Saddam Iraq, Mr. Powell said, "I would hope that it would be a short conflict and that it would be directed at the leadership, not the society." But, he said, Americans should be "prepared for a fairly long-term commitment" in Iraq.
France continued to insist that Baghdad was showing signs of increased cooperation, strengthening the case for giving the inspections more time.
"If there is a need for more resources for the inspections, we can make these resources available to the inspectors," Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told the French Senate. "It's very important as we see that all this is leading to a change in Iraq's attitude and this change is heading the right way."
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, in a passionate defense of France's "vision of the world," told the Senate the French policy was "based on a principle that force can only be a last resort."
Mr. Powell, Mr. de Villepin and the foreign ministers of Britain, Russia, China, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Chile and Syria will attend today's Security Council meeting in New York.
The day is expected to begin with an open session of the council at 10:15 a.m., where Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei will present their reports, followed by statements from each of the 15 council members. At lunch, they will hold a closed debate, diplomats familiar with the arrangements said yesterday.
Mr. Powell also is expected to meet separately with the four other permanent council members Britain, China, France and Russia then the rotating 10 members in mid-to-late afternoon.

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