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 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 22:34 GMT
US and Britain lambast Iraq dossier
US tanks in Kuwait
US forces are massing in the Gulf
The United States and Britain have sharply criticised Iraq's weapons declaration to the United Nations, saying it is riddled with falsehoods and omissions.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was not optimistic that Iraq would co-operate with demands to disarm, and that he believed other UN Security Council members felt the same way.

George W Bush
President Bush wants Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ousted
"Our analysis of the Iraqi declaration to this point... shows problems with the declaration, gaps, omissions - and all of this is troublesome," Mr Powell said at a news conference.

Mr Powell said Washington would make a formal response to the dossier on Thursday, after chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix had given his first assessment of the 12,000-page document.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W Bush was also concerned with what he called problems and omissions in the document.

The Americans have said they will lead a coalition to disarm Iraq by force if it fails to close down what Washington describes as its weapons of mass destruction programme.

But BBC Washington correspondent Rob Watson says both Mr Powell and Mr Fleischer stressed the determination of the administration to work within what they called the UN process.

He says this suggests there will be no rush to war, however flawed Washington considers the declaration to be.

'Obvious falsehood'

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has also criticised the Iraqi declaration, saying it was not "the full and complete" version demanded by the UN Security Council.

UN arms inspectors
Inspections timetable:
  • 8 December: Iraqi declaration of chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programmes.
  • 19 December: Chief weapons inspector to brief UN Security Council
  • 26 January: Inspectors have 60 days from start of inspections to report on progress.
  • Inspections can be halted at any time, and "serious consequences" ensue if inspectors are obstructed.

    See also:

  • "This will fool nobody," Mr Straw said in a statement. "If Saddam persists in this obvious falsehood, it will become clear that he has rejected the pathway to peace."

    Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Britain would give its formal response to the declaration after Christmas.

    But he added: "I think most people who have looked at this obviously very long document are very sceptical about the claims it makes."

    Britain has been the strongest international supporter of President Bush's tough line on Iraq.

    Not all members of the UN Security Council, however, appear to believe there are deficiencies in Iraq's report and some have expressed unease at the US and UK's "pre-empting" of Mr Blix's statement.

    In a BBC interview, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Sharaa said that waging war on Iraq was "unjustified, unnecessary and unlikely".

    Syria has been angered by the US decision to only provide the full version of the Iraqi document to the permanent members of the Security Council, and on Wednesday said it would return its copy in protest.

    Norway has also said that it wants a full copy.

    The edited declaration, distributed to the non-permanent members of the council, runs to 3,500 pages, compared with the original's 12,000 pages.

    Correspondents say the US may next want to interview Iraqi scientists outside Iraq - an option laid out in last month's UN Security Council resolution.

    The Bush administration believes Iraq will resist the move, and can then be declared in material breach of the resolution.

    Resolution 1441 warns Baghdad of "serious consequences" if it fails to comply with UN disarmament demands, and led to the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq.

      The BBC's Bridget Kendall
    "The Americans are already signalling deep concern"
      Geoff Hoon MP, Defence Secretary
    "Saddam Hussein has been given every opportunity to disarm voluntarily"
      UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
    "We want Saddam to comply with the UN resolutions"

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    18 Dec 02 | Middle East
    18 Dec 02 | Europe
    18 Dec 02 | Politics
    17 Dec 02 | Middle East
    17 Dec 02 | Middle East
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