- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

NEW YORK U.S. officials said yesterday that they believed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's presentation of the administration's case against Iraq had changed the dynamic of the debate, even though key U.N. Security Council members remained reluctant to endorse military action against Saddam Hussein.
"It will take time for this information to sink in, but any proposals now have to be evaluated against the information Secretary Powell provided," a senior State Department official said.
France, Russia and China responded to the secretary's presentation by calling for U.N. inspectors to analyze the information provided by Mr. Powell and seek explanations from Baghdad even as they continue their search for banned weapons.
But the United States, which insists there is now sufficient evidence to declare Baghdad in "further material breach" of Resolution 1441, noted that those responses had been drafted before Mr. Powell spoke.
"There is always a point in continuing the inspections, because what they can find and destroy is important to the world," said the senior official traveling with Mr. Powell. "But we should not expect them to do more than they can."
Although the inspectors "are doing a diligent job," the official added, the environment in which they are working does not offer much promise of achieving their goal of verifying that Iraq has rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
"If you have mobile biological laboratories and missiles hidden under palm trees, you can't move the inspectors around the country" to find them, the official said. He rejected a French proposal to increase the number of inspectors, arguing that even much larger teams would not be able to check every truck and house in Iraq where illicit arms or documents may be hidden.
The official noted that the French had acknowledged for the first time that Iraq has stocks of VX nerve gas and anthrax. He also cited French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's comment that Paris is "not ruling out any option."
But the official said he was not yet able to say what the United States thinks the next step should be. He also declined to address any involvement Washington might have in another Security Council resolution to complement Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously Nov. 8.
Diplomatic sources in New York said Tuesday that Britain was drafting a new resolution. The text has not yet been shared with the United States, but a U.S. official said American diplomats have made clear to their British colleagues that Washington will support a new document only if it warns of "serious consequences" if Baghdad does not come clean before a specific deadline falling within the next few weeks.
Giving reporters a brief history of the preparation of Mr. Powell's presentation, the senior State Department official said yesterday that "teams" from the department went to the CIA last Thursday to start drafting the text.
The secretary joined them on Friday and Saturday nights, and then again Sunday afternoon, working with intelligence analysts and speechwriters.
"They looked at slides and transcripts and decided which were the most useful," the official said. "The intelligence community was very forthcoming and helpful."
When Mr. Powell arrived in New York on Tuesday afternoon, he did "another walk-through" with CIA Director George J. Tenet; John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and other officials.
Later in the evening, after a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, the secretary rehearsed the presentation "from start to finish, right through" in a room at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
The leaders of 10 Central and Eastern European countries yesterday issued a statement in support of the tough U.S. stance against Iraq, less than a week after an opinion article by eight European heads of state and government that appeared in U.S. and European newspapers.
The new democracies, seven of which were invited to join NATO in November, said they were "prepared to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq."
"The United States presented compelling evidence to the United Nations Security Council detailing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, its active efforts to deceive U.N. inspectors, and its links to international terrorism," said the foreign ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
"Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values," they said.
"The trans-Atlantic community, of which we are a part, must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction."

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