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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 01:16 GMT
US pushes new Iraq resolution
US navy plane prepares to launch in the Gulf
The Pentagon says its troops are ready to go to war
The United States has begun talks at the UN in New York on drafting a new Security Council resolution on Iraq in the face of opposition by key members.

As the Council prepares to hear Friday's report by arms inspectors on Baghdad's compliance with existing resolutions on its disarmament, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said talks were under way about the wording of a new resolution.

We are reaching a moment of truth as to whether or not this matter will be resolved peacefully or will be resolved by military conflict

Colin Powell
US secretary of state
Pressure on Iraq grew on Wednesday as reports emerged that inspectors had detected a programme to build ballistic missiles which contravened the resolutions.

In Brussels, a third day of talks aimed at healing a split within Nato over Iraq ended without success.

Mr Fleischer launched an attack on the countries who forced the split in Nato by refusing to endorse contingency plans for war which envisage bolstering Turkey's defences.

"What you really have is a case where Germany, France and Belgium to varying degrees are isolating themselves from Europe," he said.

Tough questions

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said he will confront France and Germany over a proposal they have mooted to give inspections more time.

Mr Powell told the US Congress he would ask French and German foreign ministers how much more time they wanted to give inspectors and whether they were trying to get Iraq "off the hook".

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

"More inspectors aren't the issue.... the issue is the lack of Iraqi compliance," he added.

"We are reaching a moment of truth as to whether or not this matter will be resolved peacefully or will be resolved by military conflict."

Mr Powell also said there had been detailed discussions on giving Iraqi President Saddam Hussein asylum outside Iraq.

However, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says few experts think the Iraqi leader would take up the offer and it is seen more as a way of showing the world that every effort has been made to avoid a war.

'Illegal missile plans'

Diplomats at the UN say a panel of experts convened by UN weapons inspectors has found that Iraq has been developing a ballistic missile system which contravenes existing UN resolutions.

The al-Samoud Two missile reportedly exceeds the legal range of 150 kilometres (93 miles) imposed by the UN - reaching up to 180km (100 miles).

If the missiles were equipped with chemical or biological warheads, then they could be considered weapon of mass destruction.

The BBC's UN correspondent, Greg Barrow, says the finding could strengthen the hand of those calling for military action against Baghdad.

Nato deadlock

Nato ambassadors failed to resolve their crisis over Turkey after a new day of talks at Brussels headquarters.

US REQUEST FOR TURKEY
A US Patriot missile being launched
Patriot anti-missile batteries
Awacs surveillance planes
Chemical, biological protection units
Germany, France and Belgium argue that US plans to send defensive equipment to their fellow Nato member would undermine diplomatic efforts aimed at averting conflict.

A Nato spokesman said the disagreement centred on timing rather than substance.

Pentagon officials say there are now at least 130,000 US personnel within striking distance of Iraq and they are ready to begin operations if necessary.

In other developments:

  • UK Prime Minister Tony Blair outlined the "moral" case for war against Saddam Hussein, saying the alternative was a sanctions regime that could result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis

  • Greece, which holds the presidency of the European Union, said the EU would be in "deep crisis" if member states failed to forge a common stance on Iraq

  • Papal envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray said a Mass for peace at Baghdad's cathedral

  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard reiterated his support for the US and UK position during a visit to London.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ian Pannell
"Inspectors have been looking at Iraq's missiles"
Rageh Omaar reports from Baghdad
"The people are trying to get on with a semblance of normal life"
The BBC's Richard Forrest
"American patience is wearing thin"

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12 Feb 03 | Middle East
12 Feb 03 | Politics
11 Feb 03 | Europe
12 Feb 03 | Media reports
11 Feb 03 | Americas
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