- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2003

Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix warned Thursday his report to the U.N. Security Council on Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction would not be positive unless Iraq comes completely clean about its WMD program.

"What has not worked is for the Iraqi side either to present prohibited items for destruction or present evidence that they are finished," he said after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

He urged further cooperation from Baghdad.

"We hope at this late hour … that they will come to a positive response," he said. "If they do not do that, then our report next Friday will not be what we would like it to be."

Blix and his counterpart at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, are to present to the Security Council details of further inspections carried out by weapons experts of sites in Iraq believed to conceal proscribed WMD.

The two men were to be in Baghdad for meeting with top Iraqi officials this weekend.

"It is important we have a good conversation before we go to Baghdad," ElBaradei said before his meeting with Blair in London.

Their comments came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council the most detailed case yet that Iraq has attempted to hide from U.N. inspectors its existing stocks of chemical and biological weapons and continued attempts to produce more.

In his show-and-tell presentation, Powell also gave new details of the alleged link between the Iraqi regime and al Qaida network and reiterated U.S. claims — disputed by some experts — that Iraq had sought materials to build uranium enrichment equipment to help make nuclear weapons.

Iraq on Thursday dismissed Powell's presentation.

"Well, all that is fiction," said Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Iraqi science adviser. "It is simply not true."

He said Iraq would present a detailed letter of rebuttal of the U.S. claims to the Security Council.

Calling the presentation "mainly for home consumption, for the uninformed," al-Saadi said he was heartened "that a lot of people around the world are of the same opinion that it was intended mainly for the uninformed."

He called parts of Powell's presentation "misquotes and fabrications unworthy of a superpower."

"They don't need to do that," he said.

Also Thursday, European members of the U.N. Security Council remained split over how to disarm Iraq, with Britain, Spain and Bulgaria urging military action and France, Germany and Russia pressing for U.N. inspections to continue.

France, the strongest opponent of the U.S. drive to use force to disarm Saddam, acknowledged Thursday that Baghdad must respond to the demands of the international community.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, however, the time was "not yet right" for a U.N. resolution authorizing force.

Britain, Washington's closest ally on its Iraq position, said Iraq could still avoid military conflict, but time is fast running out.

"The Iraqi regime must decide whether it will comply with its obligations or face the consequences," Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana welcomed the U.S. evidence.

"Its content and also the way it was presented were very solid," he said in a statement. "It has to be taken seriously by everybody. Everybody should reflect after this report."

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member EU, said time was running out for Baghdad, but "there is still hope for a diplomatic resolution of the issue."

In other developments, Turkish parliamentarians voted to approve giving the United States permission to renovate its bases and ports in the country. The move is seen as the closest indication that Turkey, one of Washington's closest allies in the Muslim world, backs the U.S. position in the event of a war with Iraq.

NATO leaders, however, did little to bolster Turkey's position in the event Iraq attacks it during any military conflict. NATO ambassadors meeting in Brussels failed to reach an agreement on measures to protect Turkey in the case of an attack by Iraq. For the third week in a row France, Germany and Belgium insisted contingency plans were premature while inspections continued.

Since resuming searches on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus, more than 100 inspectors from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency have visited over 500 sites across Iraq that are suspected of involvement in Iraq's programs to develop WMD.

A team from the UNIMOVIC visited the Educational Laboratories Directorate at Saddam Medical Center in Baghdad on Thursday.

The inspectors arrived at 9:00 a.m. and met with Jasim Tumah, director of the laboratories, before conducting their inspections.

"They were comfortable because they did not any find any violations," Tumah said. "They also made sure that these laboratories extend services to patients in the hospital and others visiting the consultative clinic."

He said the visit was the first by inspectors to the facility since 1998.

During the 2-1/2 hour meeting, the U.N. experts inspected all the floors and the bacteriology, immunity, genetics, blood diseases, tissue, and clinical chemistry laboratories.

Iraq maintains that it possesses no WMD and denies any links with terrorist groups.

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