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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Bush lieutenants press UN over Iraq
Statue of Saddam Hussein going up in Baghdad
Baghdad is showing no sign of yielding so far
Senior US officials are exerting intense pressure on the United Nations to force Iraq to comply with UN resolutions as soon as possible to avert the threat of war.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed on US television on Sunday that they expected the UN to act quickly.

Saddam knows what he has to do. It's been out there for years

Colin Powell
The comments by key lieutenants of the US president come just days after Mr Bush's keynote speech at the UN General Assembly in which he called for tough action to get Iraq to comply with a series of resolutions.

Mr Powell said work on a new Security Council resolution - or resolutions - to tackle the dispute over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction should take weeks, not months.

But he also repeated President Bush's willingness to act alone against Iraq, should the UN fail.

Ms Rice said regime change in Iraq remained US policy as there was little confidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would ever comply with UN resolutions.

Woman in Baghdad market
Arab leaders fear renewed US-led action in the region
She also repeated claims of links between Iraq and the al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden, who is widely suspected to be the architect of the 11 September attacks against the US.

Earlier, US Vice President Dick Cheney said he saw international support building for Washington's position.

Arab states rally

In recent days, Iraq has been coming under increasing pressure from Arab states who are opposed to US military intervention to comply quickly with UN.

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal told the BBC that since Baghdad "claims that it has no weapons of mass destruction, it seems the normal thing to do is to invite the inspectors in and finish the crisis".

Resolving the issue would, he said, spare the Iraqi people "great hardships".

Italian Prime Minster Berlusconi with President Bush
Bush wants the UN to show "backbone"
The Arab League made a similar appeal to Iraq after a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the margins of the General Assembly in New York on Saturday.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher has expressed hope that the crisis could be solved without the need for a new resolution.

"We are discussing the way to overcome the present difficulties, if we do, then I suppose there won't be need for a resolution," he said, adding that Egypt detected "signs of flexibility" in Iraq's position.

However Syria has strongly criticised US plans to take military action against Iraq.

Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa told the UN General Assembly that Israel was in breach of many more UN resolutions than Iraq, but no military action was being planned against it.

'Unjustifiable aggression'

Iraq has accused the US and Britain of fabricating fears about its alleged weapons programme in order to seize Iraqi oil and "redraw the map of the region".

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told journalists in Baghdad that the US had turned down all of Iraq's offers to check for weapons of mass destruction and was looking for a "pretext to justify an unjustifiable invasion and aggression on Iraq".

Japanese foreign minister Yoriko Kwaguchiu meets Iraqi counterpart Naji Sabri
Iraq has also been canvassing for support
Mr Aziz said Iraq was open to all suggestions for a solution to the arms inspection crisis but that at the moment no one had come forward with any specific plan.

Sunday's Iraqi newspapers called President Bush a "liar, son of a liar" for his speech on Thursday outlining the threats posed by Iraq to the UN General Assembly.

"He clearly expressed the arrogance of his administration and his bellicose side which the world rejects and condemns," the daily al-Thawra said.

So far, only Britain has aligned itself with the Bush administration's policy to bring about "regime change" in Iraq.

However, the foreign ministers of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia - whose support could be crucial to Washington - have indicated they would co-operate with a US-led attack on Iraq backed by the UN.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"The American military is gearing up to fight"
The BBC's Rob Watson at the White House
"Once the president has spoken everyone has to get behind the policy"
Experts on Iraq discuss the possible next steps
"Saddam will try to procrastinate and divide world opinion"

Key stories





See also:

14 Sep 02 | Middle East
13 Sep 02 | Middle East
13 Sep 02 | Media reports
12 Sep 02 | Middle East
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