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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 13:18 GMT
Iraq under pressure to rebut allegations
Code Pink demonstrators in front of the German embassy in Baghdad
France has opposed early military action
Iraq is under intense pressure to respond to extensive United States allegations that it is defying United Nations demands to disarm.

The foreign minister of France - which has been reluctant to back US-led military action against Iraq - said on Thursday that Baghdad must "respond rapidly to the demands of the international community".

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

But the minister, Dominique de Villepin, said the time was "not yet right" for a Security Council resolution specifically authorising force.

It was the clearest sign yet that the Council was not completely convinced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of what he said was clear evidence Iraq was flouting UN resolutions.

France's Dominique de Villepin
There is a broad majority in the UN Security Council for inspections to be continued

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin
Three key Council members - China, France and Russia, all said the inspectors should be given more time. Among permanent members, only the UK unequivocally supported the US position.

Baghdad rejected Mr Powell's allegations, saying the goal was to sell the idea of war against Iraq, and said it would issue a detailed response later on Thursday.

More time

France - a veto-wielding member of the Security Council - said arms inspectors should be given more time.

"As long as the arms inspections make progress, we must pursue them," Mr de Villepin told a French radio station.

"There is a broad majority in the UN Security Council for inspections to be continued," he said.

Satellite photograph of Iraq
Powell presented satellite images of Iraqi facilities
The inspectors themselves, however, expressed doubt in London on Thursday ahead of a visit to Baghdad at the weekend.

"The message coming from the Security Council is very clear - that Iraq is not co-operating fully," Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters.

Hans Blix, the chief chemical and biological weapons inspector, listed three demands:

  • that Iraq allow U-2 spy planes to fly over the country
  • that inspectors be allowed to interview Iraqi scientists privately
  • that Iraq enact legislation implementing UN demands.

Warning

Mr Powell warned a special session of the Security Council against any further delay in tackling what he called Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear arms ambitions.

The intercepts
Remove the expression 'nerve agents' from wireless instructions

Iraqi officer as quoted in US translation of intercepts
"Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option," Mr Powell said.

As Mr Powell presented his case to the UN, the Pentagon revealed that there are now more than 110,000 US troops in the Gulf.

But the BBC's Justin Webb says Mr Powell is reported to be content to let the diplomatic process rest until Mr Blix reports back to the Security Council next week.

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is holding talks with Mr Blix on Thursday before the inspector heads back to Baghdad.

Reactions

Current Security Council
UN Security Council
For military action: United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution

The Bush administration is claiming that some Council members expressed more support privately than they did in public, our correspondent says.

In its first reaction to the presentation, Baghdad issued a blanket denial.

Adviser to President Saddam Hussein, Amer al-Saadi, said alleged intercepts of conversations between Iraqi officials cited by Mr Powell were "manufactured".

General al-Saadi dismissed other items contained in the US dossier, and said his government would issue a fuller rebuttal on Thursday.

In his presentation to the Security Council Mr Powell said that Iraq:

  • Conspired to dupe inspectors - Mr Powell played intercepted communications allegedly between Iraqi military discussing how to block the work of UN weapons inspectors.

  • Removed evidence - Mr Powell showed satellite images, which he said showed evidence being taken from key sites.

  • Failed to account for materials - Mr Powell said Baghdad had not revealed the whereabouts of materials turned up in previous inspections.

  • Possessed mobile weapons facilities - Mr Powell said Iraq had at least seven mobile factories for producing biological agents.

  • Blocked interviews - Saddam Hussein allegedly told scientists to refuse to be interviewed outside Iraq, in contravention of the UN resolution, and threatened them if they co-operated.

  • Had terrorist links - Mr Powell said members of a group headed by an al-Qaeda associate, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, have been operating freely in Baghdad.

  • Had a nuclear programme - Mr Powell said that Iraq was continuing efforts to produce a nuclear arsenal.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ian Pannell
"Colin Powell made a tough multi media sales pitch"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Full statement on Iraq point by point
 VOTE RESULTS
Are you convinced by Powell's evidence?

Yes
 39.71% 

No
 60.29% 

21801 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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06 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Americas
04 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Middle East
06 Feb 03 | Europe
06 Feb 03 | Media reports
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
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