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 Friday, 17 January, 2003, 18:40 GMT
Europe appeals for time on Iraq
Iraqi protesters rally against UN weapons inspectors
Europe wants the inspectors to stay on in Iraq
Several European countries have united in warning against military intervention in Iraq and urging more time for United Nations inspections.

French President Jacques Chirac delivered a blunt warning against any unilateral military action, saying it would break international law. He said UN weapons inspectors must be given the necessary time to complete their work in Iraq.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix
Hans Blix: Discovery "not very good"
In London, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair voiced his support for the inspectors' work, in a meeting with chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell said he believed that when the Security Council meets at the end of the month, "it will be convincingly proven that Iraq is not co-operating".

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein gave a defiant speech on Friday, a day after the discovery of 11 empty warheads which inspectors said were designed to carry chemical weapons.

A spokesman for US President George W Bush, who has been building up military forces in the Gulf, has said the find is "troubling and serious".

Mr Chirac urged Baghdad to give clear signs that it is co-operating with the weapons inspectors, but warned any decision on military action had to be made by the Security Council as a whole.

Saddam Hussein delivering a speech to mark the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War
The entire nation will rise to defend its right in life, and to defend its role and sacred places

Saddam Hussein
Russia, which like France is a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, warned against jumping to conclusions over the warheads discovery but said it proved that inspections were working.

The UK prime minister's office said Mr Blair expressed his strong support for the inspectors and paid tribute to their work at his meeting with Mr Blix on Friday.

Mr Blair welcomed the intensification of the inspections and stressed it was important for President Saddam to take full advantage of this opportunity to disarm, his office said.

Earlier, a spokesman for Mr Blair urged patience until the warheads discovery had been assessed.

Elsewhere in Europe:

  • Turkey said its support for a US-led operation would be limited and was not committed to allowing the US to use its facilities.

  • Greece, which holds the European Union presidency, said Thursday's find was "proof of their good work" and results had to be evaluated.

  • Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi said the inspectors' work was producing results and it would be "wise" to extend their work into February.

  • German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder repeated his opposition to military action in Iraq, adding he would be glad to see Saddam Hussein go into exile.

    'Undeclared weapons'

    Reacting to Thursday's discovery of empty chemical weapons' warheads, President Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer rejected Iraqi assertions that they had been included on its arms declaration submitted last month.

    KEY DATES
    19 Jan - Blix meets top Iraqi officials in Baghdad
    27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
    29 Jan - UN discusses report
    31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
    15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
    27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN


    "The fact that Iraq is in possession of undeclared chemical warheads, which the United Nations says are in excellent condition, is troubling and serious," he said.

    He added it had become "increasingly clear" that Iraq was not disarming.

    In an interview with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Mr Powell noted that many nations believed a new Security Council resolution was necessary to justify a war.

    He said the US took these concerns seriously, "but we have always made clear that the UN will act without a second resolution, if we are of the firm opinion that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction or wants to produce new ones."

    Map showing Ukhaider ammunition storage area

    Mr Blix said the warheads discovery was "evidently not very good," but said it was "not a very big quantity".

    The warheads are being tested to determine if they ever contained banned chemicals - Baghdad says they are merely empty rockets that have expired.

    Mr Blix has said he wants more explanations from the Iraqis about the warheads.

    After the meetings in Europe, Mr Blix will fly to Baghdad for talks with his inspection team and Iraqi officials, before giving a preliminary report to the UN Security Council in New York on 27 January.

    Iraqi defiance

    Saddam Hussein marked the 12th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War on Friday with a defiant speech in which he warned that US-led forces faced certain death if they attacked Iraq.

    America had been "defeated" the last time it waged war against Iraq, he said, and had proved itself incapable of learning from past mistakes.

    Our correspondent in Baghdad says Saddam Hussein's speech had a clear message for the outside world: that he has no intention of leaving Iraq for exile, as some media reports have suggested.

    Saddam Hussein made no reference to the 11 warheads found on Thursday at the Ukhaider military storage facility.


  •   WATCH/LISTEN
      ON THIS STORY
      The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
    "War, President Chirac said, was the worst option of all"
      Jacques Chirac, French President
    "It is clear that it is up to Iraq to show it's active co-operation"

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    17 Jan 03 | Middle East
    17 Jan 03 | Middle East
    16 Jan 03 | Politics
    14 Jan 03 | Americas
    17 Jan 03 | Politics
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