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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 04:08 GMT 05:08 UK
US threat to stop Iraq inspections
Iraqi women receive monthly food rations from a local mosque in Baghdad
The Iraqis could be facing another US assault
The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said the United States will find ways to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq unless there is a new United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue.

Addressing a Congressional committee, Mr Powell said the Security Council must spell out to Iraq the serious consequences if it fails to co-operate with the inspectors.

The Security Council must send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm

President Bush

The BBC State Department correspondent Jon Leyne says the US is in effect giving an ultimatum to the Security Council.

The development came as the chief UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, told the Security Council he hoped to have an advance party in Iraq on 15 October.

Mr Blix later told reporters an advance party would go there "as soon as possible".

"We will select some sites that we think are interesting to go to in the early phases," he said, "so it's not like it takes two months before we can send any guys out there in the field. It will be much earlier than that."

At the UN, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri delivered a message from President Saddam Hussein, accusing Washington of lying about Iraq's weapons.

Saddam Hussein insisted that Baghdad does not possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

His letter also appeared to qualify Baghdad's surprise announcement on Monday that the UN could resume unfettered weapons inspections.

He said any inspectors must respect arrangements on Baghdad's "sovereignty and security", raising fears that Iraq might prevent access to so-called presidential sites and other sensitive areas.

Congress pressed

The White House called the statement disappointing.

Earlier, President Bush sent a draft resolution to Congress, asking it to authorise all necessary and appropriate means to ensure Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions and to restore peace and security to the region.

Mr Bush also urged the UN Security Council to deal with Iraq - or the United States and its allies would, he said.

Mr Bush said negotiations with the Iraqis were over.

As part of his lobbying effort, Mr Bush met nine Democratic and Republican members of Congress on Thursday.

President George W Bush
Bush: Congressional resolution will send a vital message
They emerged predicting bipartisan support for Mr Bush.

"I think we have no choice but to have the strongest support possible for the president's efforts here," said Representative Norm Dicks.

Senior members of Congress have made clear they will back the congressional resolution sought by the administration.

But they also warned that some Democrats may vote against it.

The administration hopes to have both Houses of Congress pass the resolution within the next two weeks.

Mr Bush called on the UN Security Council to "work with the United States and other concerned parties to send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm".

He added: "If the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will."

Tough opposition

Mr Bush was speaking after talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell about efforts to draft a separate UN Security Council resolution on Iraq.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq
Mr Powell later told the House International Relations Committee that any new UN resolution must spell out the "decisive consequences" Baghdad would face if it fails to disarm.

He said Washington would find ways to thwart any attempt to return the inspectors without any such resolution.

The US faces opposition in the Security Council on the Iraqi issue - notably from Russia and France which have veto power.

President Bush is to meet the Russian foreign and defence ministers at the White House on Friday in an effort to persuade them not to trust Saddam Hussein's offer to allow weapons inspectors back.

Iraq, for its part, has strongly condemned American threats of military action.

The BBC's Robert Parsons
"The White House is sending a tough message and presenting a united front"
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"There's been no specific reaction from Iraq so far"

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See also:

19 Sep 02 | Americas
19 Sep 02 | Americas
18 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Middle East
17 Sep 02 | Americas
20 Sep 02 | Americas
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