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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 08:55 GMT
US convinced Iraq has banned weapons
An Iraqi soldier stops journalists at a natural gas plant
The inspectors say Iraq must co-operate more
The United States says it is convinced that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction, and that its stance towards Baghdad remains unchanged.

White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said Iraq was still refusing to co-operate actively with United Nations inspectors and it was a known fact that there were weapons in Iraq.

The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman
His comments came after the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, briefed the Security Council on the weapons declaration provided by Iraq last month and the progress of inspections so far.

Mr Blix said no evidence of weapons had been found, but that Iraq's document left many questions unanswered.

He said Baghdad needed to provide "pro-active" co-operation to the teams searching for banned weapons.

Ahead of the briefing he said that no "smoking guns" of evidence had been found.

But Washington is unconvinced. "The problem with guns that are hidden is you can't see their smoke," said Mr Fleischer.

The Bush administration says it is a known fact that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction and has warned Iraq will face serious consequences if it does not disarm

Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed Mr Fleischer's comments, saying just because a smoking gun could not be found, it did not mean it did not exist.

Mr Powell said evidence of a smoking gun was not even necessary:

Chief UN inspector Hans Blix
Blix: Many unanswered questions

"If the international community sees that Saddam Hussein is not co-operating in a way that would not allow you to determine the truth of the matter, then he is in violation of the UN resolution [1441]," he told NBC news.

But Mr Powell stressed that the 27 January deadline for Mr Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, to give their final report to the Security Council was not a "D-Day for decision making".

Easing of pace

The BBC's correspondent in Washington, Justin Webb, said Mr Powell seemed to suggest that the Bush administration no longer feels an urgent need to bring the entire crisis to a head.

Our correspondent says Washington is now sounding a note of patience with the UN process, a change that may be because of the length of time it is taking for the military build-up in the Gulf.

Iraqi weapons declaration
Omissions in the declaration are a material breach, says the US

The UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, also said the inspectors "need to build up the intensity of what they're doing - they need more time".

"The 27th will not necessarily produce something new or dramatic," he added.

Briefing the Security Council on Thursday, Mr Blix and Mr El Baradei said: "We are inching forward, however we indicated we need more pro-active support".

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says Thursday's comments mean opening the gates to facilities will not be enough and Iraq will have to get into the real business of accounting for missing material.

Intelligence sharing

Mr El Baradei said one example of Iraq's failure to co-operate pro-actively was the fact that his inspectors had not been able to conduct interviews privately.

Mr El Baradei is due to hold talks on Friday with Mr Powell and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's assistant for national security.

He is expected to broach the subject of the US providing intelligence to back its claims that it knows Iraq definitely has weapons of mass destruction and a strategy for gaining access to Iraqi scientists.

Iraq, while insisting that its weapons declaration is complete, says it is willing to clarify any questions from the inspections team.

  The BBC's Greg Barrow reports from the UN
"The strategy to disarm Iraq appears to be shifting"

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See also:

09 Jan 03 | Country profiles
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
10 Jan 03 | Middle East
09 Jan 03 | Middle East
07 Jan 03 | Middle East
11 Dec 02 | Americas
09 Jan 03 | Politics
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