Iraq war could be weeks away

Posted 12:00 a.m. March 12

by Carolyn Polinsky
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Iraq is not cooperating with demands for weapons disarmament, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday in an effort to garner support for a war against the country.

He warned that Saddam Hussein would face very real consequences if he continues to fail to live up to U.N. resolutions requiring him to give up tools of mass destruction.

Powell said reports by U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), show “that Iraq is still refusing to offer what was called for by 1441: immediate, active and unconditional cooperation.”

The United States, along with Britain and Spain set a date of March 17 for compliance with resolutions. One high-ranking government official told U-WIRE Friday that a war could start as early as March 19 if they do not comply.

In an address to the Security Council, Blix said that while Iraq fell short of U.N. requirements, the country was proactive in its efforts to get rid of weapons, particularly in destroying 34 of its al-Samoud 2 missiles. El Baradei said evidence that Iraq has been trying to acquire high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production was fake and there was no evidence of the country harboring nuclear weapons.

Yet Powell said the United States has new intelligence proving otherwise.

“There is new information that is available to us and I believe available to the IAEA about a European country where Iraq was found shopping for these kinds of tubes,” he said.

But Blix countered that with continued cooperation from Iraq with inspectors, the country could comply with resolutions within months.

“If Iraq genuinely wanted to disarm, we would not have to be worrying about setting up means of looking for mobile biological units or any units of that kind,” Powell replied. “The very fact that we must make these requests seems to me to show that Iraq is still not cooperating.”

Inspectors should not have to conduct extensive searches for weapons, Powell said.

“We must not allow Iraq to shift the burden of proof onto the inspectors,” he noted.

He added that Iraq must live up to Resolution 1441 and immediately rid itself of banned weapons. He said he was pleased to hear of the break-up of al-Samoud missiles, but could not be certain if more missiles exist or if the Iraqis have the equipment to make them.

Powell said Blix’s 167-page report on Iraq’s inspections policies showed 12 years of deceit and “17 examples when the previous inspectors actually uncovered evidence contradicting Iraqi claims.”

“Now is the time for the Council to tell Saddam that the clock has not been stopped by his stratagems and his machinations,” Powell said. “Nobody wants war, but it is clear that the limited progress we have seen comes from the presence of a large military force of nations who are willing to put their young men and women in harm’s way in order to rid the world of these dangerous weapons.”

However outside of Britain, Spain and Bulgaria, there does not seem to be international support for a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

“By imposing a deadline of only a few days would we merely be seeking a pretext for war?” asked French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. “I will say it again: France will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes the automatic use of force.”

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said: “The possibilities for disarming Iraq through political means do exist. “Now we need not new Security Council resolutions – we have enough of those. We need now active support of the inspectors in carrying out their tasks.”

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