- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 14 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday that he was going back to Washington to consult with "colleagues, the president and members of the Security Council" to consider a possible draft resolution authorizing military action despite hearing a majority of the panel call for continued Iraq weapons inspections.

Powell welcomed chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the council of increased cooperation by Iraq, "but," he added, "that is all process. It is not substance."

The secretary of state — implicitly rejecting Franco-German proposals to beef up the inspection process — said that more inspections were not the way to resolve the crisis over Baghdad's suspected chemical and biological weapons. Accusing Iraq of stringing the world along, he said no one could afford to wait for "one of these terrible weapons to show up in one of our cities."

Asked in a later CNN interview how long the United States was willing to wait before waging war, he replied, "We're talking weeks."

For their part the French insisted that the international community had not yet exhausted the possibilities of the inspection process.

Powell told the council that while he was pleased with Friday's Iraqi decree forbidding the production of weapons of mass destruction, it "should have been issued years and years ago."

Earlier Blix had told the panel that while no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq, some proscribed items had not been accounted for and Iraq still needed to be more cooperative and forthcoming in the inspection process.

The time needed for inspections could be shortened if "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" with the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency "were to be forthcoming," said the UNMOVIC chairman.

Blix told the council that important questions remained about biological and chemical weapons that could not be accounted for, and about Iraq's missile program — which is limited under U.N. mandate.

Powell commended Blix's inspectors, but said, "What we need is not more inspections. What we need is not more immediate access. What we need is immediate, active, unconditional, full cooperation on the part of Iraq. What we need is for Iraq to disarm."

Speaking only from notes, Powell, said, "Resolution 1441 was not about inspections. Resolution 1441 was about the disarmament of Iraq."

The Nov. 8 resolution, passed unanimously by the Security Council, declared Iraq in "material breach" of earlier U.N demands that it disarm itself of suspected weapons of mass destruction. It threatened "serious consequences" — unspecified, but widely believed to include military action — if Iraq did not immediately and fully cooperate with the disarmament process.

Powell recalled the resolution "began with the clear statement that Iraq was in material breach of its obligations for the past 11 years and remains to that day, the day the resolution was passed, in material breach. And the resolution said Iraq must now come into compliance, it must disarm."

Several months after Iraq submitted its Dec. 12, 12,000-page declaration on its weapons of mass destruction programs, "Nobody in this council can say that that was a full, complete or accurate declaration," said the secretary of state. "I have heard nothing to suggest that they have filled in the gaps that were in that declaration, or they have added new evidence that should give us any comfort."

He said the declaration requirement in the Nov. 8 resolution was "an early test of Iraq's seriousness: Are they serious? Are they going to disarm? Are they going to comply? Are they going to cooperate? And the answer with that declaration was no; we're going to see what we can get away with; we can see how much we can slip under your nose."

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, "not withstanding all of the lovely rhetoric, the questions remain and some of my colleagues have talked about them. We haven't accounted for the anthrax. We haven't accounted for the botulinum, VX, both biological agents, growth media, 30,000 chemical and biological munitions.

"These are not trivial matters one can just ignore and walk away from," he concluded.

"We are facing a difficult situation. More inspectors — sorry, it's not the answer," Powell said.

The secretary of state said he would provide "more evidence" on the connections he said were now emerging between Iraq and terrorists.

The uncharacteristically emotional Powell said, "Force should always be a last resort; I have preached this for most of my professional life as a soldier and as a diplomat; but it must be a resort. We cannot allow this process to be endlessly strung out, as Iraq is trying to do right now."

"Walking through the consequences," Powell said, "It requires this council to begin to think through the consequences of walking away from this problem, with the reality that we have to face this problem, and that in the very near future we will have to consider whether or not we've reached that point where this council, as distasteful as it may be, as reluctant as we may be, as many — as so many of you would rather not have to face this issue, but it's an issue that must be faced — and that is, whether or not it is time to consider serious consequences of the kind intended by (Resolution) 1441.

"The reason we must not look away from it is because these are terrible weapons," he said. "We are talking about weapons that will kill not a few people, not a hundred people, not a thousand people, but could kill tens of thousands of people if these weapons got into the wrong hands."

Blix had earlier referred obliquely to Powell's claim — made to a special session of the Security Council earlier this month — that Iraq is trying to hide its weapons program.

"We are fully aware that many government and intelligence organizations are convinced and assert that proscribed weapons, items and programs continue to exist," he said.

But he said that the inspectors themselves were not yet convinced, "The inspectors, for their part, must base their reports only on the evidence which they can themselves examine and present publicly."

He said cooperation by Iraq "requires more than the opening of doors … it requires immediate, unconditional and active efforts by Iraq to resolve existing questions of disarmament — either by presenting remaining proscribed items and programs for elimination or by presenting convincing evidence that they have been eliminated. In the current situation, one would expect Iraq to be eager to comply."

Blix said there were now more than 250 U.N. inspectors from 60 countries in Iraq.

Nearly simultaneously, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein issued a decree banning individuals and companies from producing or importing weapons of mass destruction.

The ban on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons was to take effect immediately, but was greeted with skepticism in Washington.

"This comes 12 years late and 26,000 liters of anthrax short," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Blix asked, "How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programs?"

"So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed," he added.

"Another matter — and one of great significance — is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for," said the 74-year-old Swede. "A document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tons of chemical agent were unaccounted for."

But — ever cautious, he added: "One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded.

"If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented," said Blix.

He did not ask for more time, but said, "Three months after the adoption of (Security Council) Resolution 1441 of 2002, the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if immediate, active and unconditional cooperation with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming."

The director general of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, said the focus of the agency's inspections had now moved from the "reconnaissance phase" into the "investigative phase."

That meant re-establishing the agency's knowledge base of Iraq's nuclear capabilities, ensuring that nuclear activities at known key facilities had not been resumed, verifying the location of nuclear material and relevant non-nuclear material and equipment, and identifying the current workplaces of former key Iraqi personnel.

The agency was continuing to follow up on acknowledged efforts by Iraq to import high-strength aluminum tubes, he said. Iraq had declared that those efforts were in connection with a program to reverse engineer conventional rockets. The agency had verified that Iraq had indeed been manufacturing such rockets.

However, it was still exploring whether the tubes were intended rather for the manufacturing of centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

The Vienna-based agency had conducted a more detailed review of the 2,000 pages of documents found Jan. 16 at the private home of an Iraqi scientist, he said. The documents related predominantly to lasers, including the use of laser technology to enrich uranium. While the documents had provided some additional details about Iraq's laser-enrichment development efforts, they referred to activities or sites already known to the agency and appeared to be the personal files of the scientist in whose home they were found.

Nothing contained in the documents altered the conclusions previously drawn by the agency concerning the extent of Iraq's laser-enrichment program.

To date, the agency had found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq, ElBaradei said. However, a number of issues were still under investigation, and the agency was not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them, although it was moving forward with regard to some of them.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, "The question today is simple: Do we consider in good conscience that disarmament via inspections is now leading us to a dead-end? Or do we consider that the possibilities regarding inspections presented in Resolution 1441 have still not been fully explored?"

He answered the query himself, saying France had two replies: "The first is that the option of inspections has not been taken to the end and that it can provide an effective response to the imperative of disarming Iraq; the second is that the use of force would be so fraught with risks for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the issue was about the authority of the council and the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.

He hoped and believed that a peaceful solution was still possible, but it would require Iraq to meet the obligations imposed on it. A peaceful solution could only be achieved if the council held its nerve, gave meaning to its word and ensured that Iraq would face the consequences of its actions.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the international community saw the United Nations as the most suitable mechanism for resolving world problems. That was why, with each additional meeting, the international community was further engaging hopes for strengthening the unity and solidarity of states in the face of a challenge.

"We should not be guided by our emotions vis—vis a particular regime," he continued. "Rather, we should draw our conclusions on the basis of facts."

For that reason, the inspectors must be provided with all possible assistance, as it was on the basis of their work that the council could make an enlightened decision, said Ivanov. The inspections were proceeding, as required under resolution 1441. One could not disregard the fact that during the inspectors' last visit to Baghdad much progress had been made.

Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan of China said that Iraq must implement the relevant council resolutions — "strictly, comprehensively and earnestly." He urged the Iraqi side to fully recognize the importance and urgency of the inspections and to provide more cooperation in a more proactive way.

It was also necessary for the inspection work in Iraq to continue, Tang said. New developments, however, had also been discovered.

Tang said the council should step up its support for the inspections.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said that Iraq accepted that it had to deal with Resolution 1441 based on the fact that that was the means to reach a solution to the so-called issue of Iraq's disarmament and had provided proactive cooperation.

He said Iraq submitted the declaration required under that resolution in record time and they required in-depth study because they contained updated information responding to many questions. He asked that that file be reconsidered in total.

Iraq's doors were open to the inspection teams without conditions, he said.

Aldouri said some states, referring to the United States, were not very happy with that cooperation, as some would have wished that Iraq had obstructed inspections or locked some doors.

But, that had not, and would not, happen, because Iraq had genuinely decided to prove it was free of weapons of mass destruction and to lift any doubts in that regard.

Quoting an Arab proverb, Aldouri said, "An empty hand has nothing to give. You cannot give what you do not have."

The council next takes up Iraq on Tuesday when all 191 members of the world organization are allowed to address the body. March 1 a new quarterly report is due from Blix and ElBaradei. Also, the French have asked for a March 14 update.

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