Major Powers Call for More Time for Inspections in
UNITED NATIONS—In a dramatic
showdown with the
Secretary of State Colin Powell, meeting stiff
resistance in the 15-member council, warned that the world should not be taken
in by “tricks that are being played on us.” But only
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin’s
impassioned speech seeking more time for
inspections elicited rare applause from diplomats in the chamber. He told The
Associated Press that
The presentations by chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix
and Mohamed ElBaradei were far more measured than the harsh assessments of
The response to their reports makes it highly unlikely
Powell said he would return to
The differences between the council powers were so
serious that a planned meeting of the five veto-holding members was canceled.
De Villepin called for another ministerial-level council meeting on March 14,
but Powell said council members decided not to make a decision now.
Powell sat impassively as speaker after speaker
When it was his turn to speak, Powell set aside his prepared remarks.
“More inspections—I am sorry—are not the answer,” he told the council.
“The French speech and the reaction was extraordinary. The atmosphere in the council today was one of peace and not war,” he told AP. “I have been worried but today I am a little calmer.”
Hours before the U.N. presentations, Saddam Hussein
decreed a ban on all weapons of mass destruction from
In his report, Blix cited improved cooperation by Saddam’s government and reported the hunt for banned arms had thus far failed to find weapons of mass destruction.
But he also said independent experts found that
ElBaradei, the nuclear chief, told the council that
inspectors found no evidence
The inspectors’ reports were strong fodder for council members opposed to war.
“We are willing to give peace a chance,” de Villepin said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan agreed: “Only when we go along the line of political settlement can we truly live up to the trust and hope the international community places in the Security Council.”
Diplomats in the chamber and members of the public in the gallery greeted the remarks of the French and Russian foreign ministers with applause. The rare response caught the council by surprise and led German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who presided over the meeting, to ask for order, noting that applause is not allowed in the council.
Powell’s comments, by contrast, did not receive any applause.
“The threat of force must remain,” Powell told the
council, adding that
Blix cast doubt on evidence Powell provided to the
council last week claiming that
Pointing to one case Powell highlighted using satellite photos of a munitions depot, Blix said: “The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity” as one designed to hide banned materials before inspections.
“In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming,” Blix said.
Blix said it was significant that “many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for.”
As an example, he cited a document that suggested some 1,000 tons of chemical agent were unaccounted for. Although he said he could not conclude the chemicals still existed, there was no proof that they had been destroyed.”
Blix also reported that missile experts found two
versions of Al Samoud 2 missile were capable of exceeding 93 miles. “This
missile system is therefore proscribed for
Blix said private interviews with three Iraqi
scientists “proved informative,” but since the interviews conducted in
“I hope this will change,” he said. “We feel that interviews conducted without any third party present and without tape recording would provide the greatest credibility.”
Under intense pressure,
Blix said U.N. personnel in
ElBaradei said, as he did in the previous report, that
inspectors found no evidence
In addition, he said, inspectors did not need Iraqi cooperation.
“The IAEA’s experience in nuclear verification shows that it is possible, particularly with an intrusive verification system, to assess the presence or absence of a nuclear weapons program in a state even without the full co-operation of the inspected state,” ElBaradei said.
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