Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed al-Douri, has appealed to the international community to prevent what he called the "inevitable catastrophe" of a US-led war against his country.
Al-Douri said Iraq was committed to disarming
Speaking at an open meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Mr al-Douri said Iraq was committed to abandoning banned weapons and accused the United States of possessing ulterior motives.
Dozens of countries spoke out against the prospect of military action, piling pressure on the US and Britain, which have intensified their efforts to win support for a second resolution paving the way for the use of force against Iraq.
Still lacking sufficient backing among Security Council members to ensure their resolution passes, Britain and the US were working on amendments to the draft text which could extend a 17 March deadline for Iraq to prove it is disarming.
Deadline, possibly 10 days, for Iraq to make strategic decision to disarm
17 March deadline to be postponed
Destruction of banned weapons
Evidence of previous claims of destroyed weapons
Interviews with Iraqi scientists abroad
Earlier, the United States rejected a suggestion by the six undecided, non-permanent members of the Security Council to extend the deadline for Iraq to disarm by 45 days.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the American people were becoming "increasingly impatient" with the UN, and he insisted the resolution would be put to a vote this week.
An opinion poll carried out by the New York Times and CBS television suggested 66% of Americans support going to war with Iraq.
Fifty-five per cent said they would still approve even without the backing of the UN.
The US, Britain and co-sponsor Spain still need the support of the undecided members - Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan - to win a so-called moral majority vote.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali said it would be "very difficult for Pakistan to support war against Iraq", but stopped short of saying Pakistan would vote against the resolution.
France and Russia have said they are prepared to veto the resolution, while China, which also has veto power, has said it backs Russia's position.
US 'seeking oil'
Opening the council meeting on Tuesday, Mr al-Douri said the goal of the United States and Britain was not Iraq's disarmament, but "to lay their hands on our oil, to control the region, to redraw our borders".
"Iraq has taken the strategic decision to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction... and reiterates its readiness to co-operate," the ambassador said.
The majority of the 28 speakers who addressed the council called for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Australia was the only country to support the US unequivocally, saying the UN weapons inspectors "will never be able to do their job properly - it is time that all the members of the Security Council acknowledged this".
Canada, which has been influential over undecided council members, suggested a three-week deadline for Iraq to demonstrate it had fully complied with the UN's disarmament demands.
About 40 nations are likely to speak in the debate, which was adjourned until 1500 local time (2000 GMT) on Wednesday.
The US and Britain have built up a massive military presence in the Gulf region.
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says American and British planes patrolling longstanding "no-fly zones" over Iraq are stepping up raids on air defences in the country to weaken them ahead of a wider conflict.
And the US army says earth fortifications along the Iraq-Kuwait border are being removed to allow an overland assault to begin.
Meanwhile, the US and Turkey are holding talks about the use of Turkish airspace by American forces in the event of war.
In other developments:
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld qualifies remarks suggesting US forces might act without British military support, saying the US had "every reason to believe there will be a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom".
- The US military says it has successfully tested a massive 21,000 pound bomb - known as the Moab: Massive Ordnance Air Burst or, unofficially, the Mother Of All Bombs - which may be used in any conflict with Iraq
- UN inspectors' spokesman Hiro Ueki says Iraq has destroyed three more of their banned al-Samoud II missiles, bringing the total destroyed to 55 out of about 100
- Mr Ueki says three pilotless drones, which the US says can deliver weapons of mass destruction, have been discovered
- Two American U-2 spy planes supporting UN inspections are withdrawn from Iraqi airspace after Baghdad complains they flew in from Saudi Arabia, breaching an agreement with inspectors