Tuesday, January 21, 2003

NEW YORK Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned the United Nations against being “shocked into impotence” on Iraq, as international arms inspectors readied a key report on Baghdad’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
“We cannot fail to take the action that may be necessary because we are afraid of what others might do,” Mr. Powell told foreign ministers of 13 nations from the 15-member U.N. Security Council at a hastily called meeting.
“We cannot be shocked into impotence because we’re afraid of the difficult choices that are ahead of us,” he said.
Mr. Powell spoke amid growing skepticism in the council over U.S. and British preparations for military action against Iraq.
Weapons officials are to present the council with a report Monday on Iraqi compliance with U.N.-mandated inspections, which resumed last month after a four-year absence.
The session yesterday was called by France, which holds the rotating council presidency this month, to discuss terrorism.
But the proceedings were underlined with an obvious subtext the looming military campaign against Iraq and the crisis over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“There is no question that Iraq continues to misunderstand the seriousness of the position that it’s in,” Mr. Powell told reporters after the session.
“If the United Nations is going to be relevant, it has to take a firm stand,” he said.
Few other participants mentioned Iraq during the three-hour meeting, but the topic dominated private meetings and a series of press conferences that followed.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw demanded that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein stop playing “cat and mouse” with the inspectors.
“I’m unimpressed with what [the Iraqis have] done today, finding a few more shells, offering a bit more cooperation,” he said. “They should have been cooperating this way the moment [the resolution] was passed.”
Mr. Straw also repeated London’s “preference” for a second council resolution endorsing the use of force against Iraq.
About 26,000 British troops nearly a quarter of its military were dispatched to the Persian Gulf region yesterday.
Washington has said it does not need a second resolution because the one adopted Nov. 7 warns of “serious consequences” if Iraq does not cooperate fully with inspectors.
Foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and China said they would prefer to give the inspectors more time before any decision on military action.
“Our position is clear: We will not be part of military action, and we want to avoid military action under [council resolution] 1441, based on the work of inspectors,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters.
He said the inspectors “should have all the time they need.” Germany is among the most outspoken opponents of military action against Iraq.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin urged Washington to consider the broader consequences of such a war on regional and world stability.
A war would “jeopardize the stability of the region and widen the gap between our people and our cultures,” Mr. Villepin said. He also warned that it would “fuel terrorism.”
Mr. de Villepin, who also hosted a private luncheon for the foreign ministers at the French ambassador’s residence, indicated that Paris would consider abstaining from a second resolution to authorize force.
“As long as cooperation can advance, let us continue on the course we have embarked on,” Mr. de Villepin said.
“In the event of a second resolution,” he told reporters, “we would not associate ourselves with military intervention that is not supported by the international community.”
Mr. Powell met privately with his counterparts from Germany, France, China, Russia, Bulgaria, Mexico and Spain.
The bilateral meetings focused on Iraq’s disarmament and North Korea’s recent decisions to expel U.N. weapons inspectors, withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and restart a mothballed nuclear reactor that makes plutonium the fuel for atom bombs.
The meeting yesterday is widely seen as the last major conference by foreign ministers before Washington decides how to proceed against Iraq.
Top U.N. weapons inspectors Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Hans Blix of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission are to present a formal report to the council Monday on the first 60 days of the inspections.
Washington considers this an end to the initial inspection phase, and U.S. officials have repeatedly said that time is running out for Saddam’s regime.
But China, among others, urged patience.
“There’s much more to do in terms of the inspections, and it will take some time,” Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told reporters.
Also yesterday, Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Blix left Baghdad with a new agreement, with Iraq pledging increased cooperation on inspections.
Baghdad said it would encourage scientists to speak with the inspectors privately and to respond to questions about the 12,000-page declaration of its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.
Iraq, however, refused to guarantee the security of a surveillance plane loaned by the Unites States for the inspection effort.
China and Germany praised the agreement, saying it shows that Baghdad is cooperating with the inspectors.
But Mr. Powell said the pact was merely “more of the same” and that Iraq would respond only under pressure.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide