Powell, foreign leaders meet before speech to security council
Wednesday, February 5, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin Powell, bidding for U.N. support, is set to present evidence that Iraq has hidden large caches of weapons of mass destruction from international inspectors and defied calls on it to disarm.
Powell's public presentation today to the U.N. Security Council in New York will be the centerpiece of a strenuous campaign to enlist support from Russia, France and other skeptical governments as well as from the American public.
But British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been supportive of the administration on Iraq, has failed in a fresh attempt to persuade a reluctant France to join a U.S.-led coalition ready to move against Saddam Hussein if necessary.
President Jacques Chirac, during talks with Blair in France Tuesday, said he is still adamantly opposed to a war against Baghdad without giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time to search for outlawed weapons.
France and Russia, both of whom have veto power in the Security Council, are prime targets for Powell, who said in an article published Monday by The Wall Street Journal that "we will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."
Powell also planned a series of meetings with foreign ministers and ambassadors from all 14 other Security Council nations Tuesday and today. And all 14, plus Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri, are due to make statements today to the council in what could be a critical test of sentiment for using force to disarm Iraq.
CIA Director George J. Tenet, and his chief deputy, John McLaughlin, were expected to accompany Powell at the United Nations but not provide any testimony, U.S. officials said.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs "will be well documented tomorrow by Secretary Powell."
He said that while "I don't want to overstate it, for the obvious reason," Powell would also show "some intersections with various and sundry terrorist groups and that is our real fear with Iraq."
In a rare interview, broadcast Tuesday, Saddam denied that Baghdad has a relationship with al-Qaida or weapons of mass destruction, saying it would be impossible to hide such arms.
"If we had a relationship with al-Qaida, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it," the Iraqi leader said in an interview for a new television network called "Arab Television," an Arab station that has yet to be launched.
Meanwhile, the king of Bahrain, in Washington for meetings with the administration leaders, said Tuesday he believes Bush wants peace in the region. Bahrain, an island in the Persian Gulf, is a key U.S. supporter in the region and is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
"The president's goals are for peace in our region, and peace means progress and development," King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifaf said after meeting at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Hamad said it was "for the world to decide" if military action should be taken if Iraq fails to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. He would not say whether he would allow U.S. forces to use Bahrain as a base for an invasion of Iraq without U.N. approval.
Hamad also called on Saddam to cooperate with the U.N.
"For the sake of peace, we urge Iraq to comply with the international inspectors, so the people of the region can avoid another war," Hamad said.
On Tuesday in Iraq, arms monitors fanned out to 10 missile, chemical and other potential weapons production sites as U.S. diplomatic pressure mounted to possibly cut short the U.N. inspection plans.
A senior Iraqi official said Baghdad, looking to clear away obstacles to a clean U.N. report on inspections, may consider enlisting foreigners as witnesses for Iraqi weapons scientists who refuse to submit to secret U.N. interviews -- an option proposed by members of the European Parliament. Inspectors have complained about interviews monitored by Iraqi officials.
Powell is expected to present photographs of mobile biological weapons labs and transcripts of overheard Iraqi conversations to try to persuade the other nations that diplomacy and searches have about run their course, an administration official said Monday.