- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

NEW YORK Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the United Nations' top two weapons inspectors, gave the Security Council ammunition yesterday in its push to stall a war and continue inspections with a report that brushed aside Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's charges that Iraq has not complied with a resolution to give up his weapons of mass destruction.
The report triggered a vigorous response from Mr. Powell, who forcefully declared, "More inspections, I'm sorry, are not the answer."
Mr. Powell said that "Iraq has failed to comply with [U.N. Resolution] 1441," which the council approved unanimously in November and gave Iraq one last chance to disarm or face "serious consequences."
"The threat of force must remain. Force must always be a last resort," he said. "I have preached this most of my life. But it must be a resort."
France, China and Russia, seizing on the measured assessments for the inspectors on Iraq's cooperation and state of arms, made it unmistakably clear they prefer disarming Iraq through open-ended U.N. weapons inspections rather than the use of force.
The U.N. inspectors offered only faint criticism of the Iraqi regime yesterday, compared with a more robust critique of its compliance two weeks ago.
The mild tone of the inspectors was especially surprising to Washington after an international panel of ballistics experts found Iraqi rockets capable of exceeding U.N.-imposed range limits.
President Bush joined the day's debate with renewed vigor, declaring that the United States will not be deterred.
"Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction and he's used them; Saddam Hussein is used to deceiving the world and continues to do so; Saddam Hussein has got ties to terrorist networks," Mr. Bush said in a speech at the FBI headquarters in Washington, flanked by his homeland security team and senior officials of the Justice and State departments.
"Saddam Hussein is a danger, and that's why he will be disarmed, one way or the other," he said.
But the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Mexico, China, Russia and Syria all stressed that Iraq should be disarmed through open-ended inspections, rather than by military force.
"We should try to do our best with the inspectors. If it doesn't work, then we should consider another option," said Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France. "The pressure is strong. We are seeing results."
Mr. De Villepin proposed that foreign ministers meet again at the United Nations on March 14 to consider what progress has been made by the inspectors. Later, Mr. De Villepin told the Associated Press that France would not support a U.N. resolution authorizing war.
The French diplomat received an almost unprecedented round of applause from the visitors' gallery of the council chambers after his remarks.
As demonstrators shivered outside in freezing winds, diplomats indicated yesterday that the time is not right for the United States and Britain, its closest ally, to circulate a second resolution that would presumably authorize force if Baghdad does not answer specific questions by a deadline.
Several ministers endorsed the idea of convening another foreign ministers' meeting on March 14 to discuss the Iraqi situation. But Mr. Powell indicated yesterday that Washington would not accept that date.
Last week, Mr. Powell gave the world a rare glimpse into U.S. intelligence capabilities with a briefing on what he described as Iraq's efforts to deceive inspectors.
The briefing appears to have persuaded Chile, Bulgaria and Spain that Baghdad does not intend to voluntarily disarm of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
But it appears to have alienated Mr. Blix, who is reported to have been embarrassed by the public presentation of intelligence that should have been shared first with U.N. inspectors.
Mr. Blix went so far as to contradict Mr. Powell's intelligence briefing last week, and chided Washington for not sharing information with the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC.
Mr. Blix rejected Mr. Powell's assertion that two aerial photographs of a munitions depot showed Iraq sanitizing the site before the inspectors' visit.
"This was a declared site, and it was certainly one of the sites Iraq would have expected us to inspect," said Mr. Blix yesterday.
"We have noted that the two satellite images of the site were taken several weeks apart. The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection."
He said Iraq could do more to cooperate with the inspection process.
But Mr. Blix reported progress on some issues of concern.
He said a few Iraqi scientists had agreed to private interviews with inspectors, and that reconnaissance flights by U-2 spy planes were scheduled to begin next week.
He said Iraq had reduced the number of "minders" who accompany inspectors on site visits, and that yesterday it had issued a requested presidential decree barring importation and production of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
Mr. Blix also offered a detailed description of the inspection team's plans for expanding its mission, seen by some as an implication that more time would be welcome.
In a separate report, Mr. ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said his inspectors had found no sign Iraq had resumed its nuclear-weapons program.
"The IAEA's experience in nuclear verification shows that it is possible, particularly with an intrusive verification system, to assess the presence or absence of a nuclear-weapons program in a state even without the full cooperation of the inspected state," Mr. ElBaradei said.

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