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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 21:16 GMT
US seizes on Iraqi non-compliance
George W Bush
President Bush will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday

Just before weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei addressed the UN Security Council, the White House very pointedly noted it was looking for a "yes" or "no" on whether or not Iraq was complying and disarming.

Anything less than full co-operation would be treated as a "no".

So, having set the stage, the Bush administration quickly seized on the inspectors' reports as a clear "no".

Colin Powell
Powell warned that time was running out
In New York the US Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, said he had heard nothing from the inspectors that would give him any hope that Iraq intended to comply with UN resolutions.

He said the last 60 days of inspections had shown Iraq was "back to business as usual" despite having been given one last chance to disarm.

In a hint of the diplomatic battles to come in the days ahead, Mr Negroponte said the danger now "is that the Security Council may return to business as usual as well".

And he warned the UN against that course.

"The council and its member governments must face its responsibilities and consider what message council irresolution sends to Iraq and other proliferators," he said.

A UN weapons inspectors vehicle enters Ibn al-Haitham manufacturing facility for missile components past a mural of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in Baghdad
The US believes there has been no real cooperation

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, argued that it would only make sense to give more time for the inspectors "if the other side is prepared to work in cooperation" with them.

And he said one must never rule out the use of force to protect the international community.

White House critique

At the White House there was a similar reaction to the inspectors' report.

The president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, described it as a frightening reminder that Iraq had failed to account for its chemical and biological weapons and that Baghdad was giving the UN the "runaround".

But the White House is also being careful to say there are still no deadlines for the inspections to end and for military action to begin.

Mr Fleischer warned that time was running out for Saddam Hussein.

The US hopes it can use any time remaining before a possible attack to persuade reluctant allies abroad and a still sceptical public here in the US that confronting Iraq is both urgent and justified.

And George W Bush will have a chance to do precisely that when he addresses the nation in the State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's James Robbins in New York
"Inspectors kept up their searches even as their boss catalogued dozens of unanswered questions"
  The BBC's Matt Frei
"Make no mistake, this president is a gambler prepared to take risks"
  Mark Malloch Brown, UN Development Programme
"If there is a war, we are trying to look at the consequences"

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26 Jan 03 | Politics
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