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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 06:08 GMT 07:08 UK
Powell rejects Iraq inspections offer
Colin Powell
Powell said the Iraqi offer was nonsense and a con
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has dismissed Iraq's call for talks on the resumption of UN weapons inspections.

Speaking shortly before arriving in Johannesburg for the world summit, Mr Powell also hinted that the president is close to making a public declaration of what his intentions are.


What is it that is triggering this new found determination to move forward, even unilaterally?

Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle
President George W Bush has called Congressional leaders to the White House for talks about Iraq later on Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to drum up domestic support for a possible US attack.

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, earlier gave a clear signal that he will support US military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein fails to give unrestricted access to United Nations weapons inspectors.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Mr Blair promised to publish evidence of Iraq's alleged development of weapons of mass destruction.

Arab diplomats said Iraq will seek backing from Arab foreign ministers who are due to discuss the growing crisis with America at a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on Wednesday.

'No firm direction'

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr Bush's meeting with senior Republican and Democrat politicians was part of the president's consultations on security, Iraq and the war on terror.

US President George W Bush
Bush - close to making a public declaration of what his intentions are

The president is expected to try to allay fears that he is about to embark on a war without getting proper backing from Congress, amid signs of a rift within the Bush administration and growing international opposition to a military strike.

Mr Fleischer recalled a speech that Mr Bush made in January, in which he said he wanted weapons inspectors to go back to Iraq.

But shortly after his statement, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said it was very unlikely that renewed inspections would produce any useful result.

"I haven't seen any inclination on their [Iraqi] part to agree to anything except as a ploy from time to time to... play the international community and the UN process like a guitar," Mr Rumsfeld said.

Congress uneasy

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says that in the absence of any firm direction from the White House, Congressional leaders are increasingly voicing their concerns on the Iraq issue.

Iraqi children wave Iraqi flags
Iraq is trying to rally opposition to possible US military action

Senate Democrat leader Tom Daschle has said he intends to persuade Mr Bush that the Constitution requires him to ask Congressional permission before waging a war.

"What information do you have specifically that would lead us to take any action?" Mr Daschle said.

"What is it that is triggering this new found determination to mover forward, even unilaterally?"

On Tuesday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Baghdad was prepared to co-operate with the UN on the issue of the return of weapons inspectors.

After talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Mr Aziz said Iraq could readmit UN inspectors only as part of a "comprehensive settlement" that would see the end of economic sanctions and threats from the US.

But Mr Powell dismissed the Iraqi offer as nonsense and a con.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"Amid all this talk of Iraq, the one person who's remained fairly quiet is President Bush himself"
Democratic congressman Brad Sherman
"The Iraqi regime changes its position on inspections as often as Saddam changes bunkers"

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04 Sep 02 | Middle East
04 Sep 02 | Europe
04 Sep 02 | Politics
03 Sep 02 | Middle East
03 Sep 02 | Politics
03 Sep 02 | Politics
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