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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 05:43 GMT
Iraq inspection deal 'getting closer'
Colin Powell with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
Colin Powell struck a conciliatory note
American Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the United States will give weapons inspectors time to do their work in Iraq before pressing for further action against Saddam Hussein.


I have been on the telephone most of the day with my colleagues in the Security Council and I think we are getting much closer

Colin Powell

Mr Powell was speaking as negotiations continue over a new UN resolution on Iraq.

Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix has been meeting President George W Bush and senior administration officials in Washington.

President Bush has called for more stringent checks on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says the United States is doing all it can to persuade the rest of the world that it is serious about re-starting weapons inspections in Iraq.

The aim is to reassure sceptics on the Security Council that a proposed new UN resolution is not just meant as a trigger for war, our correspondent says.

Security Council
The Security Council is split on Iraq

That message was given to the two chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammed al-Baradei, when they met President Bush at the White House.

The president, according to his spokesman, stressed that he did want to work with the inspectors.

Mr Powell said the Security Council was moving closer to an agreement on a new resolutions about Iraq.

"I have been on the telephone most of the day with my colleagues in the Security Council and I think we are getting much closer," Mr Powell said on Wednesday.

Timetable

Mr Powell also said it could be a number of months before the inspectors reported back on Iraq's weapons programme.

This could throw into doubt what many analysts see as a timetable leading to war early next year.

Hans Blix
Chief UN inspector Blix wants a tough resolution

Mr Powell was speaking as negotiations continued over a new UN resolution on Iraq. Progress has been made towards a compromise, but diplomats say that a vote may not take place until next week.

The resolution has been discussed in detail, but there is disagreement about some of the language and a need for further consultation.

Under a deal being discussed between the two main protagonists - the United States and France - a first resolution would set down tough new conditions that Iraq would have to meet.

If Iraq then obstructs weapons inspections, the US has conceded the principle of consulting the Security Council again before taking military action.

Possible compromise

But the Americans still do not accept the need for a second UN resolution before going to war.

The US would take part in any second debate - but would not necessarily be bound by it.

Iraqi soldiers
Iraq says it will ignore any new resolution

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says this would allow Washington to preserve its claimed right to take unilateral action.

Emerging from the Security Council session on Wednesday, the British Ambassador to the UN, Jeremy Greenstock, said that Britain has no problem whatsoever with what he called a two phase process.

There has been deadlock for weeks over the American insistence on not being tied by the Security Council and the French and Russian determination that the Council should have its say before any attack.

As the negotiations grind on, the US military is making preparations for a possible attack on Iraq.

On Wednesday an air force official said B-2 Stealth bombers would be deployed closer to the Gulf region - in the Indian island ocean of Diego Garcia and in Britain.

The B-2 can fly 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) without refuelling while carrying a heavy load of bombs.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"They do appear to be narrowing the gaps and moving towards compromise"

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19 Sep 02 | Europe
29 Oct 02 | Middle East
28 Oct 02 | Americas
27 Oct 02 | Americas
23 Oct 02 | Middle East
30 Oct 02 | Politics
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