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Richard Roth: U.S. building its case against Iraq

Roth: "The U.S. [is] trying to gather support from its allies and from others in the U.N. system in case it wants to go to war against Iraq."

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The White House says Iraq's report on its weapons of mass destruction programs fails to reflect the whole truth. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix presented his own evaluation of Iraq's declaration to the Security Council on Thursday. CNN senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth discussed Blix's assessment with Talk Back Live host Arthel Neville.

NEVILLE: What is Dr. Blix's take?

ROTH: Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says Iraq has not come up with enough information to satisfy him (or) the International Atomic Energy Agency. Blix said an opportunity was missed by the Iraqi government.

The U.S. says it's a material breach (of the U.N. resolution). Iraq, here at the U.N., said it's not, (and) that Washington just wants regime change in Baghdad -- Arthel.

NEVILLE: So, Richard, what does all this mean, though? What happens now?

ROTH: The United States is pushing for a briefing by Dr. Blix a lot sooner than the planned January 27 date. (U.S.) Secretary (of State Colin) Powell (says) a body of evidence is being collected; the U.S. (is) trying to gather support from its allies and from others in the U.N. system in case it wants to go to war against Iraq.

NEVILLE: And let's talk about Iraq. What is Iraq saying?

ROTH: Iraq says this is all a continuing pattern, that the allegations by Washington and Britain (are) nothing new.

So, you have, in a way, both sides, from Baghdad to Washington, saying: You've said this before. It really doesn't matter anymore, whether it's on the documents, on the allegations of cooperation. What may be new: There's more pressure from the U.S. on the inspectors to get the scientists that live and work in Iraq to come out of the country to be able to tell them what may be going on without the prying eyes of Iraqi government officials.

Iraq is preparing a list (of scientists). By the end of the month, (Iraq is) supposed to hand it over to the U.N. But nobody knows if these scientists are willing to leave or leave on their own.

NEVILLE: So, Richard, everybody is wondering, what's the bottom line? Does this mean war?

ROTH: Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, says war is not inevitable. Neither does the secretary-general (believe war is inevitable).

The U.S. is building its case. President Bush has said, in some cases, he hasn't even made up his mind yet. They're keeping their options open, no matter which way it goes. Right now, they are pursuing diplomatic means through the inspectors. They want to give it time. But we know that forces are being built up in the region.

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