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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 17:24 GMT
US 'will be patient on Iraq'
US military exercise in Kuwait
The US is prepared to go it alone if necessary
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell says the Bush administration will "patiently" assess the first full report by United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq.

We certainly will patiently examine the report, consult with our friends and allies

Colin Powell

Mr Powell is in the Swiss town of Davos to attend the annual World Economic Forum.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Swiss resort to protest against a possible war with Iraq.

Thousands more would-be demonstrators from surrounding towns were reported to have given up in the face of stiff security measures.

Masked anti-World Economic Forum demonstrators look out of a train at a security checkpoint in Fideris near Davos
Hundreds travelled to Davos by train to protest against war in Iraq
Mr Powell said Washington could count on support from "at least a dozen" governments if it decided to launch a strike without a fresh UN resolution.

Members of the UN Security Council as well as US politicians have demanded that the arms inspectors should be given more time.

The US Secretary of State made it clear the Bush administration would not rush to make a decision, after chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix reports to the security council on Monday.

"We certainly will patiently examine the report, consult with our friends and allies," he said on Saturday.

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

"I'm sure the president will talk to fellow heads of state and government and I will be consulting with the ministers of the Security Council."

'Backing'

Mr Powell did not say how much longer the US was willing to give weapons inspectors to complete their work in Iraq.

In Washington, the influential 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.

KEY DATES
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN


The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington said the sense is that the extension could last a few weeks.

The inspectors say they need several months to look for the weapons of mass destruction the US says Iraq possesses.

The US secretary of state says his country has international support if it decides to use force without a fresh UN mandate on Iraq.

"Quite a number of countries have indicated that they would like to have another resolution, but without another resolution they will be with us," he said.

"I don't want to give you names or give you a count, but we would not be alone," Mr Powell added.

At Davos Mr Powell met the Turkish Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul, who said no decision had been made on whether to allow the US to use Turkish bases in any attack on Iraq.

According to CBS news, the US military planners are preparing devastating air strikes that would leave Iraqi soldiers unable or unwilling to fight.

On the first day of the planned operation US forces would launch up to 400 cruise missiles at Iraqi targets - more than the number fired during the entire 1991 Gulf War, it reported.

The speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Saadoun Hammadi, countered by saying his country will use every method to fight anyone who invades it.

'Save me!'

In Iraq itself, the weapons inspectors have interviewed an unidentified Iraqi scientist in a Baghdad hotel.

The interview comes a day after Washington accused Iraq of blocking private access to the scientists.

Reports from Baghdad say three scientists refused on Saturday to be interviewed in private.

Iraq has named about 500 scientists as having worked on weapons programmes.

UN officials have also questioned two men who entered the inspectors' compound on the outskirts of Baghdad earlier on Saturday.

One of the men was carrying knives. The other entered a UN vehicle, shouting "Save me!"

Both have been handed over to the Iraqi authorities.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jonathan Charles reports from Davos
"The US Secretary of State is trying to win over a sceptical audience"
  Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
"We have a final declaration that needs explanation"
  The BBC's Nick Thatcher
"It's reported that any attack would be swift, massive and designed to catch Baghdad by surprise"

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24 Jan 03 | Middle East
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