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 Saturday, 25 January, 2003, 19:48 GMT
Iraqi scientists reject interviews
UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad
Interviews are seen as a key part of inspections
United Nations inspectors in Iraq say two scientists they wanted to interview about weapons of mass destruction have rejected private meetings.

"Two individuals did not agree to it without the presence of a witness," a UN statement said.

Colin Powell
I could rattle off at least a dozen [names of states which would back war on Iraq]... and I think that there will be more

Colin Powell

A third scientist visited a Baghdad hotel housing inspectors on Saturday but left after 90 minutes without speaking to reporters.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said America would "patiently" assess the first full report by the UN inspectors due on Monday.

But he added that Washington could count on support from "at least a dozen" governments if it decided to launch a military strike without a fresh UN Security Council resolution.

He was speaking after arriving in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, where he is due to deliver a speech on Sunday.

The US administration has accused Saddam Hussein's regime of threatening scientists who try to give information to the inspectors.

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

Hundreds of anti-war protesters have gathered in Davos while hundreds more are said to have given up trying to reach the mountain town in the face of stiff security measures.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to drive back demonstrators hoping to catch trains to the resort. the protesters fought back with snowballs.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby reports that a few protestors were dressed in monkey suits and wore masks of George Bush and some burnt American flags.

Appeal for time

European Union leaders in Davos have appealed for UN inspectors to be given more time.

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

"Obviously there is a consensus that we should give them the necessary time if they ask," said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

On Monday, the UN Security Council will hear the first formal report on the situation in Iraq from the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix. His team has been searching sites in the country for weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Powell made it clear the Bush administration would not rush to make a decision after Monday's report.

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

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

Air assault

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 America's CBS news, US military planners are preparing devastating air strikes which 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, said on Saturday that his country would use "every method to inflict damage and casualties" against invaders.

Speaking on a visit to India, he did not elaborate.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Rageh Omaar
"The US says this is just more delaying tactics"
  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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