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Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 09:39 GMT
Arms report deepens UN split
US Secretary of State Colin Powell (l) and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin
The report prompted different reactions
The latest United Nations weapons inspectors' report on Iraq has deepened divisions on the Security Council.

United States Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Council should "in the near future consider serious consequences" - code for war on Iraq.

Weapons inspectors Hans Blix (r) and Mohamed ElBaradei
Called for by UN Resolution 1441
Second report since 27 January
Covers biological, chemical and nuclear weapons inspections
But France, China and Russia said inspectors should be given the time they need to complete their task.

"The use of military force is not justified today," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

The diplomats later went into private session, after which Mr Powell said the US still hoped to work through the UN to ensure Iraq had disarmed.

"We will continue to debate this issue within the Council," he said when asked if the US would seek a second resolution explicitly authorising war.

The Security Council meeting ended without a decision on whether to discuss such a resolution.

The foreign ministers agreed to go back to their capitals to discuss what to do next.

Earlier, chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix told the council that Iraq still needed to provide evidence to back its claims it does not possess banned weapons.

But he took a more positive line than in his report two weeks ago, saying Baghdad had made progress in a number of areas.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
Tariq Aziz said Iraq was disarming

At a news conference in Rome afterwards, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Iraq was "willing - genuinely and accurately - to implement [UN] resolutions and we are doing our best to this purpose".

Mr Aziz, who was earlier urged by Pope John Paul II to show "concrete commitments" to disarm, said a US-led war against Iraq would be interpreted in the Arab world as "a crusade against Islam".

'Change needed'

The inspectors' reports are likely to determine whether the US and Britain, its staunchest ally, decide to seek a second UN resolution authorising the use of force to disarm Iraq.

Responding to the inspectors' assessment, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the Council a peaceful solution of the crisis would "require a dramatic and peaceful change by Saddam".

"This will only be achieved if we, the Security Council, hold our nerve in the face of this tyrant," he said.

But in a sign of the open rifts within the Council, the French and Russian foreign ministers both received applause when they said there was no justification yet for a war with Iraq.

These unusual and undiplomatic displays caused German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, current council president, to ask for order inside the chamber.

'No evidence'

In his report, Mr Blix said that while disarmament could be still be achieved, "the issues of anthrax, the nerve agent VX and long-range missiles [are]... perhaps the most important problem we are facing.

A Security Council meeting
For military action: US, UK, 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

"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task and avoid belittling the questions," he said.

The chief inspector said 1,000 tons of banned chemicals and other proscribed weapons remained unaccounted for.

Mr Blix, however, cast doubt on American intelligence material presented to the Security Council last week by Colin Powell.

He said he had no evidence that Iraq had had advance warning of inspections - as has been claimed by the US - and said images said to show suspicious movement at an Iraqi weapons site could have been pictures of "routine activity".

Mr Blix confirmed a declaration by arms experts on Wednesday that Iraq's Al-Samoud missile programme exceeded UN-imposed limits on range and was "therefore proscribed for Iraq".

He said that while inspections had been carried out without problems, Iraqi compliance with UN resolution 1441 meant "more than opening doors".

He said private interviews with Iraqi scientists - a key sticking point - had "proved informative", but no interviews had taken place on the UN's terms since 9 February.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, repeated his finding that his inspectors had discovered no evidence that Iraq was restarting its nuclear programme.

He said, however, that documents passed on by Iraq last week did not answer outstanding questions about Iraq's nuclear programme since 1998.

Mr ElBaradei said inspections were continuing and the number of inspectors would be increased.

The BBC's Tom Carver
"Much more than Iraq is now at stake in this crisis"
Dr Hans Blix, chief UN weapons inspector
"Iraq itself must squarely tackle this task"
Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA head
"We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear activities"
Should UN inspectors be given more time?



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See also:

15 Feb 03 | Americas
14 Feb 03 | Europe
14 Feb 03 | Politics
14 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Middle East
13 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
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