- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

NEW YORK Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday provided intelligence photographs, audiotapes and a raft of other evidence in an attempt to convince a skeptical U.N. Security Council that Iraq is still developing weapons of mass destruction, in violation of U.N. resolutions.
Mr. Powell enumerated Baghdad's efforts to sanitize chemical arms storage bunkers, weaponize biological poisons, muzzle scientists with threats and detainment and brew weapons in mobile labs mounted inside trucks and rail cars.
"I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations" to disarm, he said in a 78-minute address illustrated with visual aids. "I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable. Iraq has now placed itself in danger of the serious consequences called for in U.N. Resolution 1441."
Mr. Powell, citing new intellgence details, also sought to establish a link between Iraq and terror network al Qaeda.
As he made public a flood of information assembled through electronic means and defectors, CIA Director George J. Tenet and John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, closely observed the proceedings sitting behind him.
The intelligence is based on "sources, solid sources," Mr. Powell said.
He said members of a group affiliated with Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has had contacts with al Qaeda, have been operating freely in Baghdad for eight months.
A senior defector, one of Saddam Hussein's former intelligence chiefs in Europe, says the Iraqi leader sent his agents to Afghanistan sometime in the mid-1990s to provide training to al Qaeda members on document forgery, according to Mr. Powell.
"From the late 1990s until 2001, the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan played the role of liaison to the al Qaeda organization," he said.
France, Russia and China, all armed with a veto in the council, continued to show a deep reluctance to support the tough U.S. stance against Iraq.
Few of the dozen foreign ministers who had gathered at the United Nations most for the second time in less than two weeks departed from scripts that had been written, translated and photocopied before Mr. Powell spoke.
But the leaders of 10 Central and Eastern European countries issued a statement in support of the U.S. posture, similar to an opinion article by eight European heads of state and government that appeared in U.S. and European newspapers less than a week ago.
Mr. Powell attempted to build a convincing case against Baghdad and tried to show that complicity in its pattern of lies and evasions goes all the way to Saddam and includes high-ranking military figures and a vast intelligence network.
"I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling," he said.
"What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts on Iraq's behavior … demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort, no effort to disarm as required by the international community."
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed al-Douri, rejected Mr. Powell's presentation as "untruthful allegation."
But many council nations took the presentation as confirmation of the need for further work by U.N. weapons inspectors, whose chiefs Hans Blix of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency return to Baghdad this weekend.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of the most vocal opponents of war with Iraq, advocated beefing up the international effort.
"Let us double, let us triple the number of inspectors. Let us open more regional offices," he said yesterday. "Could we not, for example, set up a specialized body to keep under surveillance the sites and areas that have already been inspected? Let us very significantly reinforce the capacity for monitoring and collecting information in Iraq."
He thanked Mr. Powell for the presentation but noted that "no trace of chemical or biological agents has been detected by inspectors."
Asked later if he found any portion of the presentation compelling or credible, Mr. Villepin indicated that he was not convinced.
"In this matter, it is very difficult to have absolute proof," he told reporters. "We cannot base our opinions on suspicions, but need facts."
Even before Mr. Powell spoke, there were signs of a shift in opinion within the European Union, which has been divided on how to deal with Iraq. A statement issued by Greece, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said Resolution 1441 "gave Iraq a final opportunity to disarm peacefully. If it does not take this chance it will carry the responsibility for all the consequences."
There also were reports of growing pressure on France and Germany to drop their objections on a support role for NATO in any war in the Persian Gulf.
But Germany remained closely aligned with the French position yesterday, while British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio expressed confidence in the material presented by Mr. Powell.
All council members urged more cooperation from Baghdad on the weapons inspections, and most repeated pleas to let the inspectors complete their tasks.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov refused to comment on the presentation.
"The information given to us today definitely will require serious and thorough study," he said. "Experts in our countries must immediately get down to analyzing it and drawing the appropriate conclusions from it." He said it also must be handed over to the inspectors for "direct, on-site verification."
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, in a brief note, also advocated letting the inspectors work for as long as they deem it productive.
"Security Council members should decide together what to do next on the basis of inspections," he said. "As long as there is still the slightest hope for political settlement, we must pursue that."
With none of the foreign officials budging publicly from their prepared remarks, U.S. officials expressed hope that a marathon series of brief one-on-one meetings with Mr. Powell could help sway some of the ministers.
Mr. al-Douri repeated Baghdad's assertion that it has no weapons of mass destruction.
"The presentation was composed of unverifiable voice recordings, untruthful allegation, unnamed and unknown sources, imaginative diagrams and presumptions," he said.
"Programs of weapons of mass destruction are not an aspirin pill that can be easily hidden but rather require huge production facilities."

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