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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 05:27 GMT
US seeks last-minute support on Iraq
Iraqi children line up for food distribution
There are sharp divisions over the prospect of attack
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has embarked on a last mission to drum up support for action against Iraq before a key meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

UN SECURITY COUNCIL
China, France, Russia, UK, US have veto
10 other members
Nine votes needed for military action
Germany assumes presidency 1 Feb
Mr Powell is due to arrive at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday morning, where he is expected to spend the weekend holding bilateral talks with world leaders attending the summit.

On Monday, the UN Security Council convenes to hear the first formal report on the situation in Iraq from chief arms inspector, Hans Blix, whose UN-mandated team has been checking sites in the country for weapons of mass destruction.

It has been suggested that this report will be a key factor in determining the course of action towards Iraq.

The BBC's Europe correspondent Jonathan Charles says Mr Powell is hoping this weekend to win over a host of international figures with his explanation of why war may now be unavoidable.

There currently appear to be serious divisions among the international community over the prospect of war against Iraq.

Several members of the Security Council - notably the Europeans - are demanding that the weapons inspectors be given more time to complete their work.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

In an interview with the UK's Financial Times published on Saturday, Mr Powell expressed impatience with demands from Security Council members France, Britain and Russia for more time.

"More time for what to happen? For inspectors to do what?" he said.

"I have yet to hear from any of my European colleagues as to when they would be satisfied with respect to inspections," he said. "What will we know in two or three months time in the face of Iraqi non-cooperation, which you will most likely get?"

However, it appears the Bush administration - faced with such demands - will agree to extend the inspections, if only for a few weeks.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, said after a briefing from senior administration officials that he had been assured the inspections would continue.

Our correspondent Jonathan Charles says Mr Powell may well hint this weekend that the inspectors should be given no longer than another month to do their work.

Not bad

In his report, Mr Blix will tell the Security Council on Monday that Iraqi co-operation with the inspectors is satisfactory, although it could be better, a spokesman for the UN's atomic energy agency, the IAEA, said on Friday.

UN weapons inspectors
The inspectors believe they need a lot longer to complete their work
IAEA chief Mohamad ElBaradei has also stressed that the inspections teams - who say they have found no evidence of a nuclear weapons programme so far - are only half way through their work, and that he intends to make this clear to the council when it meets.

The Bush administration however appears to be insisting that a pattern of non-compliance has already been established.

On Friday, the White House issued a fresh warning to Baghdad, declaring that its alleged refusal to allow private interviews with Iraqi weapons scientists was "unacceptable" and could bring war closer.

Shield convoy

As Mr Powell arrives in Switzerland, a convoy of anti-war protesters who aim to form a "human shield" against any bombing of Iraq is setting out from London for the Middle East.

A double decker bus and two London cabs will cross Europe rallying support against a war and collecting cash for the Iraqi people, en route for Baghdad.

They plan to identify potential bombing targets such as power stations and bridges and act as human shields to protect them.

A second convoy is planning to leave on 15 February, when up to 600 people are expected to fill a further six double-decker buses.

The US has warned that human shields will not stop specific sites from being attacked.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"The inspectors want more time and it looks like they'll get it"
  Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
"We have a final declaration that needs explanation"
  The BBC's Patrick Bartlett reports from Davos
"(Colin Powell's) trying to build a coalition of at least 12 countries"

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