- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

DAVOS, Switzerland The Bush administration yesterday presented to an international audience its strongest case yet for going to war with Iraq, directly linking Saddam Hussein's regime with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
In a major foreign policy speech before political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pledged to work with allies and other countries to disarm Saddam peacefully, but he told a packed hall that "multilateralism cannot become an excuse for inaction."
"We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction," he said. "We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing."
If anything was likely to sway the European-dominated audience of Washington's arguments for using force against Baghdad, it was Mr. Powell's final answer in a brief question-and-answer session following his prepared remarks.
While stopping short of claiming that Saddam has already delivered chemical or biological weapons to a terrorist organization such as al Qaeda, Mr. Powell focused on that danger in an emotional account of his personal thoughts on September 11, 2001.
Mr. Powell, a soldier with 35 years of service, immediately flew home from a function in Lima, Peru, on the day of the attacks. As he sat in the plane, he said, "I realized that I was at war again."
He then described the administration's overwhelming emphasis on the war against terrorism and its determination to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorist hands.
"We are probably approaching one such moment when we have to take the next step," the secretary said in reference to disarming Saddam.
"History will judge whether or not we have the strength, fortitude and willingness to take that next step."
Speaking a day before international weapons inspectors report to the Security Council on Iraq's compliance with U.N. orders to disarm, Mr. Powell said the administration is "in no great rush to judgment today or tomorrow, but it's clear that time is running out."
Before deciding its next step, the Bush administration plans to wait for the Security Council debate on Wednesday, following the presentation of chief inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Camp David for talks with President Bush on Friday.
Responding to calls from a number of countries that the inspectors receive more time, Mr. Powell said that two months after the inspections began Iraq has not yet answered key questions about its weapons.
"How much time does Iraq need to answer these questions? It is not a matter of time, it is a matter of telling the truth, and Saddam Hussein still responds with evasions and lies," the secretary said.
He noted that U.N. Resolution 1441, which the Security Council adopted unanimously on Nov. 8, "is not about inspectors exposing evidence of Iraq's established failure to disarm," but about Baghdad's "disclosing the entire extent of its illicit biological, chemical, nuclear and missile activities and disarming itself of them with the help of the inspectors."
He pointed to a direct link between Saddam's regime and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network, although he stopped short of suggesting that Iraq has anything to do with the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
"The more we wait, the more chance there is for this dictator with clear ties to terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, to pass a weapon, share technology or use these weapons again. The nexus of tyrants and terror, of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction is the greatest danger of our age," he said.
Mr. Powell, who is regarded by many foreigners as the most moderate member of the administration, arrived in Davos on Saturday morning and met with several foreign leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, the Swiss and Australian foreign ministers, Micheline Calmy-Rey and Alexander Downer, and Chung Dong-young, adviser of South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.
A German newspaper, meanwhile, reported yesterday that the United States and Britain have already decided to set a new deadline for a second report from the U.N. weapons inspectors before a final decision is made on military action.
Citing unnamed British government sources, Die Welt newspaper said the inspectors would be given until March 1 to produce a "final report."
In the same report, Die Welt said the United States planned to pull its informants out of Iraq in the coming weeks to back up its charge that Iraq is still seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The information the United States has gathered would then be made public, it said. The delay would give the United States and Britain time to complete their military buildup in the region, the paper said.


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