- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) — The United States Monday responded to a report by U.N. weapons inspectors by saying Iraq had failed to comply with a U.N. resolution, calling on it to give up weapons of mass destruction.

"Iraq's refusal to disarm … still threatens international peace and security," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at the State Department.

He said the inspectors' report was not a surprise.

"To this day, the Iraq regime continues to defy the will of the United Nations."

The White House said the inspections would continue while it consulted with allies at the United Nations and elsewhere about how to proceed.

"It's clear … that Iraq has failed to comply, that Iraq continues to have weapons of mass destruction that they have not accounted for and that Iraq's failure to comply has led to a situation where the inspectors are getting the run-around," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters.

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."

U.N. inspectors have been searching for evidence that the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has continued to stockpile chemical and biological weapons — and work on a developing nuclear ones — since November when the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1441, which demanded Iraq give up such weapons.

U.S. officials have repeatedly made plain their belief that Iraq has no intention of disarming, and reiterated that stand Monday.

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he did not believe Iraq would fully cooperate with the world body.

"Nothing we have heard today gives us hope that Iraq intends to fully comply" with U.N. Security Council disarmament resolutions, he said after listening to Blix's report.

"Saddam Hussein, if he wanted to disarm, could have shown the inspectors where his arms were and proved that he was a leader intended on peace, not war. Obviously, he's made a decision not to do that," said Fleischer.

U.S. officials said they were growing impatient: "I think it's important for the world to know what the president has said, that time is running out," Fleischer said. He added that, while inspections would continue, the United States would step up its efforts to build what it calls a "coalition of the willing," to disarm Iraq by force.

"The president will continue to rally the world. And one day, one way, sooner or later, Saddam Hussein will either disarm so peace can be preserved, or a coalition will be assembled to do the job and to protect the peace."

A senior State Department official Monday said that in light of Blix's report, Iraq had clearly crossed the line set out in resolution 1441, which threatened unspecified "serious consequences," for any "material breach" of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"In our view (the Iraqis) have committed a further material breach," this official said, adding that the United States would continue to provide the inspectors with more intelligence as the United Nations debated their report.

Blix said Iraq was unable to account for its cache of VX poison gas or its stockpile of anthrax. The VX gas, Blix told the panel appeared to have been "weaponized," and in addition, there were concerns about the fate of VX precursor chemicals that Iraq told inspectors were lost in the Gulf War bombing or destroyed by Iraq.

Iraq also declared that it had destroyed its store of 8,500 liters of anthrax in 1991, but Blix said no "convincing evidence" existed of its destruction.

"There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist," Blix said.

The U.N. report issued at the end of the 1990s found that Iraq possessed some 30,000 chemical warheads, Fleischer said. But in the past eight weeks since inspectors have been back, they had found only 16 chemical warheads.

"At the pace that Iraq is cooperating with the inspectors, it will take the inspectors another almost 300 years to find the remaining weapons that the United Nations says Saddam Hussein possesses," Flesicher said.

"And the fear is," he added, "that this is a submerged tip of the iceberg in terms of the little that has been found already."

Bush, who is preparing to deliver his second State of the Union address before Congress Tuesday, has been consulting with world leaders on the Iraqi situation, Fleischer said. Earlier in the day, after his usual intelligence briefing, Bush called Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to seek his advice.

Bush has been trying to cull international support for a potential military strike against Iraq, but has met staunch resistance from Russia, China and Germany.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has backed Bush and his position even though he has drawn sharp criticism from within Britain, and particularly from those within his own party.

Other countries such as France, Japan and Italy are willing to give inspectors more time to disarm Iraq.

Fleischer said Bush still held hope that the Iraqi situation could be resolved peacefully.

"Nobody, but nobody, is more reluctant to go to war than President Bush," Fleischer said. He went on to say, "He does not want to lead the nation to war. He hopes it can be averted. But he is also clear about the fact that one way to save American lives is to prevent Saddam Hussein from engaging in something that could be far, far worse than the price that we've already seen on September 11th."

At the United Nations, Negroponte made it clear the United States would be pushing for the Security Council to take action when it consults on the report Wednesday, although he remained vague about precisely what.

"In the days ahead, we believe the council and its member governments must face its responsibilities and consider what message council irresolution sends to Iraq and other proliferators," he said. "It benefits no one to let Saddam think he can wear us down into business as usual as he has practiced it over the past 12 years."

(With reporting from Kathy Gambrell in Washington, Eli Lake at the State Department and William M. Reilly at the United Nations)

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