- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Secretary of State Colin Powell Tuesday reiterated that the United States would disarm Saddam Hussein with or without support from the international community.

The United States is waiting for the U.N. weapons inspectors' report on Jan. 27 to decide how to achieve this objective, he said.

"Saddam Hussein must be disarmed, one way or the other. If the international community is aligned, then I think it can be accomplished, hopefully peacefully; if not peacefully, then by force," said Powell.

After talks with the visiting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, Powell told reporters outside the State Department that like the rest of the international community, the United States also was waiting for the U.N. inspectors' report.

The inspectors are expected to submit their final report on Iraq Jan. 27.

"(We will) see what the inspectors say, and then we'll be in consultation with our colleagues in the Security Council and other friends around the world as to what the next step should be," said Powell.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage warned that the world's options for dealing with Iraq peacefully were all but exhausted.

In a speech to the Institute of Peace, Armitage laid out what he called Saddam's pattern of deception and said the Iraqi dictator had little time left to disarm.

"There is no sign … that Saddam has any intent to comply fully with the terms of (U.N.) Resolution 1441," he said.

Armitage also disagreed with an earlier report by the U.N.'s chief inspector, Hans Blix, that his team found "no smoking gun" in Iraq.

"Some people may say there is no smoking gun, but there is nothing but smoke," said Armitage.

These tough statements by the two senior officials of the Bush administration followed a warning from President George W. Bush, who Tuesday rejected criticism that Washington was not giving enough time to Saddam to disarm.

Bush described the demand for giving more time to Saddam as the "rerun of a bad movie."

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking Monday at the United Nations, said his country opposes military force to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction. U.N. inspections, he said, were successful in curbing Iraqi behavior.

"If war is the only way to resolve this problem, we are going down a dead end," he said. "Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen.

"We must do everything possible to strengthen the process."

"We believe that today nothing justifies envisaging military action," he said.

France, as one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, has the power to veto any move by the council to back its approval of force.

Asked to comment on the French position, Italy's foreign minister said it would be "premature" to say anything at this stage because he had not seen the report.

However, Frattini said that Italy has supported the United States in Afghanistan, where 1,000 Italian troops "will fight side by side to U.S. soldiers," and the country will support Washington on Iraq as well.

"I will confirm again today, that Italy will support the United States in the unfortunate event of a war. And obviously this will be done within the U.N. framework."

Like the United States, he said, Italy was also waiting for the U.N. inspectors' report. "We will have to see it and read it and then decide. And Italy will not pull back."

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