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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 13:54 GMT
Powell takes Iraq case to UN
Iraqi troops in
Saddam says he will defeat any military attack
The United States is to make a major push to convince a sceptical United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that Iraq is defying UN demands to disarm.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is to reveal (expected from 1530GMT) what the US calls compelling evidence of its case in a Security Council meeting convened specially at Washington's request.

Current Security Council
UN Security Council
For military action: United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution
The presentation has been kept under tight wraps but is expected to include transcripts and recordings of intercepted Iraqi conversations, and satellite images of activity at sites about to be visited by weapons inspectors.

The US may also argue that Baghdad has links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network - an assertion apparently undermined by a UK intelligence report leaked to the BBC.

The top secret report argued that there are no current links between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda, which the US blames for the 11 September 2001 attacks.

An unnamed White House official said the accusation that Baghdad was co-operating with al-Qaeda is "not the centrepiece" of Mr Powell's presentation, the Reuters news agency reported.

Bugging

Mr Powell is also expected to accuse Iraq of bugging weapons inspectors' rooms and phones, giving Baghdad advance notice of what sites they planned to search.

Colin Powell. Photo courtesy of the UN.
Powell is out to prove Iraq cannot be trusted
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has already said he has no evidence to support that claim.

Saddam Hussein continues to deny harbouring illegal weapons of mass destruction and links to international terror groups.

Mr Powell may reveal some information only in private meetings with individual Council members, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed White House official as saying Washington was reluctant to disclose too much about its surveillance technology.

Response critical

Analysts say the reaction Mr Powell receives at the Council is likely to determine whether or not the US seeks a new resolution on disarming Iraq or embarks on military action on the basis of existing resolutions.

The US would need nine votes on the 15-member Council - and no veto from any of the four other permanent members - for passage of a new resolution specifically authorising the use of force against Iraq.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
Mr Fischer - a sceptic on war - will chair the meeting
At the moment, it can count on only three votes in addition to its own, the French news agency AFP quoted unnamed diplomats as saying.

Each of the 14 Security Council members will have up to eight minutes to respond.

Iraq's Ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Al-Douri, will also be given time for a rebuttal, although Iraq is not a member of the Council.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will preside as his country currently chairs the Council.

Germany has strongly opposed an early attack on Iraq and Mr Fischer and Mr Powell clashed when they both appeared at the UN last month.

The BBC's Heba Saleh in Cairo says that no matter how strong the evidence presented by Mr Powell, the Arab world will remain unconvinced that Iraq poses a threat justifying war.

But, she adds, Arab leaders are becoming resigned to the prospect even as they try to avert it.

'Uphill battle'

CIA Director George Tenet is expected to appear with Mr Powell.

Our correspondents say that, unless Washington really springs some surprises, it is still looking like an uphill battle for US diplomacy.

If the prospect looms of a marathon negotiating session like that which preceded the last UN resolution on Iraq, the Bush administration could decide that the existing resolution gives it grounds enough for military action.

The White House said last month that a new resolution was desirable but not necessary.

In other developments:

  • An undisclosed number of F117 Stealth fighters have left their base in New Mexico for expected deployment in the Gulf.

  • The UN is drawing up contingency plans for a possible outflow of refugees from Iraq after the head of its refugee agency said 600,000 people could try to flee in case of war.

  • Kuwait announced that areas bordering Iraq would be closed off as a special military zone from 15 February.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Colin Powell is on the most important mission of his career"
The BBC's James Robbins
"Powell's will presentation almost certainly bring war closer"
Olivia Bosch, former UN weapons inspector
"Colin Powell will not be talking of smoking guns"

Talking PointFORUM
Iraq's weapons
You asked a former UN inspector

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See also:

05 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Middle East
04 Feb 03 | Middle East
04 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Business
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