- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

France and Germany proposed yesterday tripling the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq to avert U.S. military action, but the United States dismissed the plan as "a diversion, not a solution" to disarming Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
On the round of morning news talk shows, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the plan misses the point by dealing with the wrong issue. The problem is not a lack of inspectors but Saddam's refusal to disarm, they said.
"The issue is … not for inspectors to play detectives or Inspector Clouseaus running all over Iraq looking for this material," Mr. Powell said on ABC's "This Week," referring to the French Surete officer portrayed in movies by actor Peter Sellers. "Iraq is supposed to be bringing the material forward, and that's what Iraq is not doing."
German Defense Minister Peter Struck said early yesterday that France and Germany, both members of the U.N. Security Council, wanted to present their joint proposal Friday after weapons inspectors deliver their latest report on Iraqi compliance.
The French-German initiative reflects a larger crisis within the NATO alliance that comes to a head today, with up to three members set to block a U.S. package of military support for key ally Turkey in the event of war on Iraq.
Despite intense U.S. lobbying, Belgium, France and Germany have been holding out for three weeks, blocking consensus in the 19-member organization for a short list of measures centered on providing military backing for Turkey.
Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel confirmed yesterday that his country would use its power of veto to block the accord and would probably be joined by both Germany and France.
"Yes, we are going to block," Mr. Michel said on Belgian public television, adding that NATO Secretary-General George Robertson would be sent a letter by a 10 a.m. deadline today informing him of the veto.
The veto would coincide with the separate French-German push to avert war with a plan that could include sending U.N. peacekeepers to Iraq, tripling the number of weapons inspectors and turning Iraq into a no-fly zone.
Both Mr. Powell and Miss Rice said the French-German plan avoided discussion of the serious consequences the Security Council said Iraq would face if it did not comply with Resolution 1441, which demands that Iraq disarm.
"It would be a diversion if we start to move away from 1441," Miss Rice said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "The problem isn't an absence of inspectors. … The problem is that Saddam Hussein is not complying. He is not disarming."
Mr. Powell agreed.
"What France has to do and what I think Germany has to do … is read 1441 again," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "This lack of cooperation by Iraq and the false declaration, all the other actions that they have taken and not taken since the resolution passed … all set the stage for the U.N. to go into session and find whether or not serious consequences are appropriate at this time."
Mr. Powell said the French-German proposal "misses the point."
"It's the wrong issue," he said on NBC. "The issue is not more inspectors. The issue is compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein. This idea of more inspectors or a no-fly zone or whatever else may be in this proposal that is being developed, is a diversion, not a solution."
On ABC, Mr. Powell added: "I don't know what that accomplishes. What are these blue-helmeted U.N. forces going to do? Shoot their way into Iraqi compounds?"
Mr. Powell also said the plan, which was first outlined by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, could result in the United States pursuing military action without any further U.N. backing.
"If the U.N. does not face up to its responsibilities as clearly laid out in Resolution 1441, then it would be necessary for the United States to act with a willing coalition," he said on NBC.
Mr. Powell said the United States and its allies on the Security Council have begun drafting a second resolution, which would trigger the "serious consequences" threat. But he declined to say when such a resolution might be presented to the Security Council.
Mr. Powell hinted on NBC that the new resolution could come Friday.
"Friday is going to be an important day for the Security Council, and if we still find the same noncompliance that we have seen for the past several months, then I think it is time for the Security Council to start considering a resolution that says Iraq is in material breach and it's time for serious consequences to flow," he said.
Sens. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said on CNN's "Late Edition" that they agreed with the administration's move to get another resolution instead of rushing into war.
"We will need our allies here. We need to do this within the framework of international support," Mr. Hagel said. "We want international support."
Mr. Dodd agreed: "I'm glad they're doing it, but Resolution 1441 does not require them to come back to the United Nations. But in the light of events over the last several weeks, it's in our interests to make an effort to do that."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that he hoped Iraq could be disarmed peacefully and that France, Germany, Russia and China are broadly agreed on Iraq.
Mr. Putin said Moscow saw no reason now for the use of force against Iraq: "We are convinced that a one-sided use of force would lead to great suffering for the population and increase tension in the whole region."

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