- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

NEW YORK Several members of the U.N. Security Council said yesterday they still favor continued U.N. inspections of Iraq, despite pointed criticisms by weapons inspectors, and President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
The ambassadors of France, Russia, Germany, Mexico, Pakistan and Syria all said that the inspectors should be given time to continue and that Iraq should step up immediate and enthusiastic cooperation.
Diplomats said they would wait to hear what evidence Secretary of State Colin L. Powell would present on Wednesday. Foreign ministers from Germany and some other countries are expected to fly in for the public presentation.
The United States and Britain, which have declared Iraq in "material breach" of council resolutions, warned yesterday that Iraq was fast running out of time to comply with inspectors' demands.
"The time for diplomatic action is narrowing, the diplomatic window is closing," said John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "We feel the time for decision-making is fast approaching. We don't have a specific timetable in mind, but the situation is pressing."
Despite the concerns posed by inspectors on Monday, the Security Council appears to be a skeptical audience.
Aside from Britain, and Spain whose ambassador yesterday publicly marveled that Iraq could "lose" 6,500 bombs most diplomats said they hoped the inspections would be allowed to run their course.
"We made it clear that we do not want to waste this prospect of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction peacefully," said German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger. "Let us not put aside an instrument we only recently have sharpened."
Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov demanded "convincing" evidence from Mr. Powell next week. "We'd like to see undeniable proof."
The ambassador also said that Russia remained firmly behind the inspections, "and that if Iraq stops cooperating with inspectors, starts blocking inspectors, then certainly the Security Council would have to have to look" into it.
He corrected news accounts indicating that Moscow has softened its stance.
In his 60-day report, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix expressed frustration that Iraq had not accepted the need for "genuine disarmament."
French Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere seized on those remarks yesterday to support the continuation of inspections.
"Inspections are progressing without major incident and they are already producing significant results," he said.

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