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 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 09:35 GMT
Threat of Iraq war grows
Iraqi guards as inspectors drive in
Weapons inspectors have been intimidated
The United States has begun a diplomatic and political campaign to persuade the American people and sceptical allies abroad that there is no point in giving Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein any more time to disarm.

CRUCIAL 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
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Baghdad's opportunity to disarm peacefully was "fast coming to an end".

And on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC that Iraq was in "material breach" of UN disarmament demands, adding "it is profoundly serious for Iraq".

Their comments follow an unexpectedly harsh report to the Security Council by chief United Nations weapons inspector, Hans Blix.


Later on Tuesday, President George W Bush is due to give his crucial annual State of the Union address expected to be dominated by Iraq.

His spokesman Ari Fleischer said that the contents of the speech would not amount to a deadline or a "declaration of war" - but the US leader was likely to spell out in broad terms the threat Iraq poses to US interests.

The White House has not yet decided what to do next, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington, but officials say a decision could come as early as the beginning of next week.

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

However, Mr Bush has decided to declassify some intelligence material which is said to show Iraq moving and concealing illegal weapons in recent days, in some cases only hours before the arms inspectors have arrived at a site, the Washington Post newspaper has reported.

The administration is also planning to release intelligence on Iraq's alleged connections to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, Mr Powell said.

'Opened all doors'

UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told the UN Security Council on Monday that Iraq has so far complied with UN demands only reluctantly and may still possess biological weapons and rockets.

UN'S CONCERNS
No proof of destruction of anthrax stocks
300 rocket engines unaccounted for
VX gas not destroyed
Harassment of inspectors

In his report, Mr Blix said Iraq had largely given inspectors prompt access to suspected weapons sites.

But, he said: "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it."

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has insisted Iraq is co-operating, even though it would concentrate on improving such co-operation.

"All other aspects of co-operation have been met and we promise to be more forthcoming in the future replying to all their needs in [a] way that will satisfy them," he told Canadian television on Monday.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said his inspectors had found no evidence that Iraq had resumed the nuclear programme it discontinued in the early 1990s.

But Mr ElBaradei said the inspectors needed "a few months" to continue their work, describing this as "a valuable investment in peace".

No conclusion

The reports represent their assessment of two months of weapons inspections in Iraq, but not - they have stressed - a conclusion on whether Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction.

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

UN Security Council resolution 1441
Washington and London have indicated that any failure of compliance with UN resolutions demanding Iraqi disarmament could be a trigger for war.

Other key Council members say the inspections should be allowed to continue.

The Security Council will hold closed discussions on Wednesday to consider the next step.

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

Britain backs Washington on the issue of Iraq.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Ian Pannell
"The US military will be ready for war from mid to late February"
  Tariq Aziz, Iraq Deputy Prime Minister
"We are taking the threats seriously"
  Colin Powell, US Secretary of State
"Iraq's refusal to disarm ... still threatens international peace"
  Yahya Mahmassani, Arab League representative
"This is a time to give peace a chance"

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See also:

28 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Americas
28 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Nov 02 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
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