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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 13:18 GMT
Iraq defiant ahead of UN report
US soldier training in Kuwait
The clock is ticking on possible US action
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has accused the US and Britain of setting the stage for "unjustified aggression", insisting that Baghdad is complying fully with UN weapons inspectors.

Mr Sabri's remarks come hours before the inspectors present key evidence to the UN Security Council about their search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

False statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq... and failure to comply with and co-operate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment

UN Security Council resolution 1441
Chief inspector Hans Blix is expected to criticise the Iraqis for not co-operating fully, but also to announce that the weapons inspectors have not made any major discoveries.

Any failure to co-operate has been identified as a possible trigger for war by Washington and London, but other key Council members say the inspections should be allowed to continue.

Speaking just hours before the UN report is due at 1530 GMT, Mr Sabri said he hoped it would be "fair" and show how Iraq has met its obligations under UN resolution 1441.

"We hope this will stop the aggression being planned by the Americans and British," Mr Sabri said, accusing them of waging a "dirty psychological campaign".

He also denied accusations that Iraq was linked to al-Qaeda.

Council differences

The United States has made it clear it would be prepared to go to war without UN backing, if necessary.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Sunday, the US Secretary of State Colin Powell declared that Iraq had "utterly failed" to co-operate with weapons inspectors and that time was running out.

His remarks highlighted once again some of the major divisions between Security Council members - who may be asked to approve military action.

It would take a miracle to find a dialogue and a peaceful solution out of the crisis

King Abdullah of Jordan
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's only unequivocal ally on the issue of Iraq, has said that a war could begin if the inspectors reported that Iraq was not co-operating, even if one of the Security Council's permanent members vetoed a resolution on the issue.

But France, Russia and China - the other permanent, veto-wielding members of the Council - want the inspectors to be given more time to complete their task.

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

In a further round of furious diplomacy on Monday, leading ministers from the EU met in Brussels and appealed to Iraq to co-operate more fully with weapons inspectors.

They also welcomed the inspectors' "intention to continue and intensify their operations".

Britain earlier sent out a strong message for the Iraqi leader.

"Time is running out for Saddam Hussein, he has had a lot of time, 12 years to fully comply [with UN resolutions on weapons of mass destruction]," UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

"We'll make decision on exactly how much time later today in the light of the UN report."

But his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, said all attempts should be made to implement Resolution 1441 without the use of military force.

Miracle needed

Ahead of what is set to be a decisive week in moves towards possible war on Iraq, Jordan's King Abdullah said it would "it would take a miracle to find a dialogue and a peaceful solution out of the crisis".

KEY WEEK
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
28 Jan - Bush's State of the Union speech
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair

There will be a closed session of the Security Council to discuss the inspectors' report on 29 January.

In the meantime, President George W Bush will deliver his annual State of the Union speech, in which he will again seek to win over international support for action against Iraq, and counter the apparently growing doubts of the US public.

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the administration will be stressing the negative aspects of Mr Blix's report.

The US president will then meet Mr Blair on 31 January, for talks which some analysts have already dubbed a council of war.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"The Security Council is split on what to do next"
  The BBC's Katty Kay in Washington
"The White House has slightly raised the bar"
  Gordon Brown, former advisor to US military
"I think it is a staging post and not a deadline"

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26 Jan 03 | Americas
26 Jan 03 | Americas
24 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Nov 02 | Middle East
22 Jan 03 | Country profiles
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Americas
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