- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 27 (UPI) — British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Monday stepped up London's war of words against Iraq, describing a long-awaited report by the head of the U.N. arms inspectors as evidence that Baghdad's cooperation with the international community was a charade.

Speaking in Brussels after talks with EU foreign ministers, Straw said:

"There is clear evidence now that (President Saddam Hussein) has made this a charade of an inspection, cooperating on process but not on substance."

Straw said people would be "deeply disturbed" by the breaches catalogued in chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the U.N. Security Council Monday.

"Saddam Hussein is not engaged in effective cooperation with United Nations inspectors but is practicing concealment," he said.

In a sign of London's growing impatience with Baghdad, Straw told reporters that time had "almost run out" for the Iraqi leader and that failure to comply fully with U.N. Resolution 1441 would result in "serious consequences."

Straw's hard-line warning to Saddam was echoed by Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman in London.

"He's been stringing along the international community while continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction," said the official.

With Blair's European allies clamoring for evidence of Iraqi breaches, his spokesman said it was not up to the international community to find Baghdad guilty but for Iraq to prove its innocence.

"We do not have to find a smoking gun, but show that Saddam Hussein is not complying with the U.N."

Britain's attitude stood in contrast to its EU partners, who earlier Monday called for U.N. inspectors to be given more time to complete their work and for any military action against Iraq to be cleared by the Security Council.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said the 15-member bloc remained "committed to do its utmost to find a peaceful resolution to the problem."

Asked whether a further U.N. position would be needed to trigger war against Iraq, Papandreou said: "A second resolution would hopefully be greeting the full compliance of Iraq."

Earlier Monday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix earlier told the U.N. Security Council Iraq "does not appear to have come to a general acceptance" of the disarmament demanded of it. He said Iraq has been playing a game of "hide and seek."

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