Powell lays out path in Iraq dispute
Weapons declaration 'a new lie,' he says
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, after rejecting the weapons declaration Iraq submitted to the U.N. Security Council as "a new lie," laid out the path Thursday for the United States as it continues to increase pressure on Iraq to disarm.
"First, we must continue to audit and examine the Iraqi declaration to understand the full extent of Iraq's failure to meet its disclosure obligations," he said after dismissing the document as "a catalog of recycled information and systematic omissions."
"Second, the inspections should give high priority to conducting interviews with scientists and other witnesses outside of Iraq where they can speak freely. Under the terms of [Security Council] Resolution 1441, Iraq is obligated -- it is their obligation to make such witnesses available to [U.N. weapons] inspectors," Powell said at a news conference.
"Third, the inspectors should intensify their efforts inside Iraq. The United States, and, I hope, other council members, will provide the inspectors with every possible assistance; all the support they need to succeed in their crucial mission," he said.
"Finally, we will continue to consult with our friends, with our allies and with all members of the Security Council on how to compel compliance by Iraq with the will of the international community," Powell said.
Powell said the Iraqi declaration falls way short of meeting the directives of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 and "fails totally to move us in the direction of a peaceful solution."
The resolution, adopted unanimously in November, calls for Iraq to declare any weapons of mass destruction programs within its borders.
Iraq insists it has been forthcoming and truthful, and that it has no weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi officials said Thursday that the nation has not committed a material breach of the resolution, and that they will provide any information the Security Council is looking for.
Powell's remarks came after a meeting of the Security Council at which top weapons inspectors provided their first report on Iraq's written declaration.
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Thursday that Iraq had failed to provide evidence in its declaration to prove that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction.
Blix: No new evidence on weapons
"We had hoped that it would clarify a lot of issues that remained open since 1998," Blix told PBS about Iraq's 10,000-page document. "It did give information about peaceful programs concerning biology and chemistry, but it did not really shed any new evidence from the chemical weapons and biological weapons program."
U.S. officials have said that if a material breach is found, the United States might call a Security Council meeting to discuss possible military action. And no matter what the council decides at such a meeting, the United States has said it might join with its allies to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Powell stopped short of threatening immediate military action but repeatedly used the phrase "material breach" in reference to the Iraqi declaration.
"We will continue to work with UNMOVIC [the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] and IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and will consult with other members of the council to see what conclusions the council members arrive at, and to see whether or not more evidence can be brought forward to make the case to the council that Iraq has totally missed this opportunity," Powell said.
"But so far, with respect to complying with the conditions and the terms of 1441, Iraq is well on its way to losing this last chance," he said.
"The burden remains on Iraq -- not on the United Nations, not on the United States -- the burden remains on Iraq to cooperate fully and for Iraq to prove to the international community whether it does or does not have weapons of mass destruction. We are convinced they do until they prove to us otherwise," he said.
'The world will not wait forever'
"Resolution 1441 calls for serious consequences for Iraq if it does not comply with the terms of the resolution. Iraq's noncompliance and defiance of the international community has brought it closer to the day when it will have to face these consequences. The world is still waiting for Iraq to comply with its obligations. The world will not wait forever," he warned.
In the wake of Thursday's meeting, a senior administration official said things are beginning to "coalesce" among U.S. allies concerning holding Saddam to account and forcing him to disarm.
"It's not about the U.S. making a case against Saddam, but Saddam failing to make his," this official said. He likened the process of evaluating Iraq's declaration to an audit.
The official said omissions in Iraq's declaration were obvious very early and that they related not only to information dating back to 1999 but also to more recent intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs that was not reflected.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, said U.N. inspectors were still in the early stages of looking at Iraqi sites.
He said the inspectors were making good progress but needed "much more cooperation from Iraq in terms of substance, in terms of evidence to exonerate themselves that they are clean from weapons of mass destruction."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraq has "failed to meet the obligations imposed on it" but added that war with Iraq was "not inevitable."