- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

NEW YORK Britain yesterday joined the United States in declaring Iraq in "material breach" of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and Russia, an opponent of military action, hinted it may change its mind if Iraq does not cooperate with inspectors.
"The conclusion that Iraq is in material breach is an incontrovertible one," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters in London. "The chances of this being resolved by peaceful means are less than they were."
With Mr. Straw's statement, Britain joins the United States, which last month declared Iraq in "material breach" of U.N. resolutions diplomatic terminology used to threaten military action.
His comments came as British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared to fly to the United States, where he is to meet President Bush at Camp David on Friday.
Russia, traditionally Iraq's strongest advocate in the Security Council, appeared to hedge its opposition to the use of force yesterday one day after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix charged that Iraq had not accepted its obligation to disarm.
During a visit to Kiev yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "If Iraq begins to make problems for the work of the inspectors, then Russia may change its position and agree with the United States on the development of different, tougher U.N. Security Council decisions."
Mr. Blix, head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic), and Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will be called back to the Security Council today to answer diplomats' questions on the first two months of inspections in Iraq.
While some members of the 15-nation council appeared to be leaning toward agreement with the United States and Britain, other key members remained committed to allowing inspections to continue.
China and France, which oppose military action against Iraq, hold vetoes on the Security Council. The United States, Britain and Russia also have veto power.
Germany, which joined the council for a two-year term this month, is among the strongest opponents of a war.
"The inspectors need more time, and they should get more time from the Security Council," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said yesterday in a radio interview.
"That is the common position of France and Germany, and my impression is that the other members of the Security Council … think this time should be given."
However, Mr. Schroeder said he would not restrict the use of U.S. bases in Germany.
Divisions within the council are likely to light up the daylong discussion planned for today, which comes after governments have had the chance to digest the inspectors' remarks on Monday and President Bush's State of the Union address last night.
On Monday, Mr. Blix, the executive chairman of Unmovic, told the council that Iraq had not yet reached "a genuine acceptance" of disarmament, nor had it answered outstanding questions about known stocks of missiles and chemical and biological weapons.
He also noted resistance by Iraq to allow inspectors to interview scientists without the presence of a government representative and Iraq's refusal to let inspectors use a U-2 surveillance plane on loan from the United States.
Mr. ElBaradei was less critical of Iraq in his remarks and asked for more time for his team of 12 nuclear experts to investigate whether Iraq has resumed programs to make nuclear weapons or radioactive bombs.
The two inspectors said their experts had been given access to visit nearly 300 sites in Iraq, including mosques, government facilities and a presidential palace.
But they said that access was no substitute for full and voluntary cooperation with inspectors.
Weapons inspectors have repeatedly beseeched the U.S. and British governments, as well as those of other nations, for intelligence that will assist them in hunting down prohibited activity or caches.
The United States says it is up to the government of Saddam Hussein to come forward, disclose its weapons and help U.N. inspectors destroy them.
Other nations have indicated that they would find U.S. claims of Iraqi obstruction more convincing if they could see the evidence Washington claims to have.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was preparing to present intelligence to the Security Council.
"We do have a number of intelligence products that convince us that what we are saying is correct … that they are doing these things, and we hope in the next week or so to make as much of this available in public as possible," Mr. Powell told European reporters.
The council is likely to request another status report from the inspectors on Feb. 14.
One council diplomat said that several nations that believed the inspections were not working were still reluctant to authorize war.
"They are still not prepared to say the only way forward is through military action," the envoy said. "But if you give the inspectors more time … it will help others be more clear in their own minds that this is the end of the road.
"People were recognizing [Monday] that Iraq hasn't woken up to the need to disarm. It's starting to click."
U.S. officials have indicated that they will allow inspections to continue for at least another week or two, even as they work diplomatic contacts and lobby other nations to support a military strike on Iraq.

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