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Powell: Iraq's time to disarm 'fast coming to an end'

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks to reporters at the State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks to reporters at the State Department.

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U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell responds to the U.N. weapons inspectors' 60-day report on Iraq to the Security Council (January 27)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After U.N. weapons inspectors presented their first report to the Security Council on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said at a news conference that Iraq "continues to defy the will of the United Nations" and "has been frustrating the work of the inspectors." The following is a transcript of his remarks.

POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Earlier today, in accordance with U.N. Resolution 1441, Drs. [Hans] Blix and [Mohamed] ElBaradei provided the United Nations Security Council their 60-day reports on inspection activity in Iraq. We listened carefully as the inspectors reported that Iraq has not provided the active, immediate and unconditional cooperation that the council demanded in U.N. Resolution 1441.

As Dr. Blix said, quote, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it," unquote.

Let me repeat, because this is the essence of the problem. Dr. Blix said, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it."

[Resolution] 1441 is all about the disarmament demanded of Iraq. The inspectors' findings came as no surprise. For 11 years before 1441, [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein's regime refused to make the strategic decision, the political decision to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction and to comply with the world's demands.

To this day, the Iraq regime continues to defy the will of the United Nations. The Iraqi regime has responded to 1441 with empty claims, empty declarations and empty gestures. It has not given the inspectors and the international community any concrete information in answer to a host of key questions.

Where is the missing anthrax? This is not just a question of historical curiosity. It is essential for us to know what happened to this deadly material.

Where is the [nerve agent] VX? Also, not just a trivial question. We must know what happened to this deadly material.

Where are the chemical and biological munitions?

Where are the mobile biological laboratories? If the Iraqi regime was truly committed to disarmament, we wouldn't be looking for these mobile labs, they'd drive them up and park them in front of UNMOVIC [United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission] headquarters for inspection.

Why is Iraq violating the restrictions on ballistic missiles? Why is it violating the ban on missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers?

Where are the credible, verifiable answer to all of the other disarmament questions compiled by the previous inspectors?

Today, we heard that the inspectors have not been able to interview any Iraqi in private. We heard that the inspectors have not been allowed to employ aerial surveillance. Why not? If Iraq was committed to disarmament, if Iraq understood what 1441 was all about, they would willingly allow the kind of surveillance, they would willingly allow people to be interviewed without minders, without fear of retribution.

We have heard that they have still not received -- the inspectors have still not received -- a full list of Iraqi personnel involved with weapons of mass destruction. If Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction, they should willingly give the names of all who are involved in their previous programs to the inspectors for examination and interview.

The inspectors told us that their efforts have been impeded by a swarm of Iraqi minders. Why, if Iraq was committed to disarmament, would they be going to these efforts to deceive and to keep the inspectors from doing their work? Passive cooperation is not what was called for in 1441.

The inspectors have also told us that they have evidence that Iraq has moved or hidden items at sites just prior to inspection visits. That's what the inspectors say, not what Americans say, not what American intelligence says; but we certainly corroborate all of that. But this is information from the inspectors.

And the inspectors have caught the Iraqis concealing top-secret information in the private residence. You all saw the pictures of that information being brought out. Why? Why, if Iraq was committed to disarmament as required under 1441, would [inspectors] be finding this kind of information squirreled away in private homes for any other reason than to keep it away from the inspectors?

The list of unanswered questions and the many ways Iraq has been frustrating the work of the inspectors goes on and on.

Iraq's refusal to disarm in compliance with Resolution 1441 still threatens international peace and security. And Iraq's defiance continues to challenge the relevance and credibility of the Security Council.

The international community's goal was, is and remains Iraq's disarmament. The Security Council and the international community must stand behind Resolution 1441.

Iraq continues to conceal quantities -- vast quantities -- of highly lethal materiel and weapons to deliver it. It could kill thousands upon thousands of men, women and children if Saddam Hussein decides to use these against those men, women and children or, just as frightening, to provide them to others who might use such weapons.

Iraq must not be allowed to keep weapons of mass terror and the capacity to produce more. The world community must send the clear message to Iraq that the will of the international community must be obeyed.

Last September the United Nations acted at the request of the United States. We acted through 1441 with the hope -- the president had the hope, the other members of the Security Council who voted unanimously for this resolution had the hope, that Iraq would take this one last chance presented to it by the international community to disarm peacefully.

And remember the key elements of that resolution. Iraq has been and continues to be in material breach of all of its earlier obligations. We are giving, the resolution said, one more chance to Iraq.

We put a firm list of conditions for Iraq to meet and what they should allow the inspectors to do to assist them in that disarmament.

And let's not forget the vital part of the resolution that comes toward the end: There would be serious consequences for continued Iraqi violation of its obligation. Those serious consequences are the lever that was needed to get the inspectors in, to get the inspectors to be able to do their work, which was to assist Iraq in disarmament.

Iraqi intransigence brings us to a situation where we see that regime's continuing to confront the fundamental choice between compliance with 1441 and the consequences of its failure to disarm.

Even at this late date, the United States hopes for a peaceful solution. And a peaceful solution is possible only if Iraq disarms itself with the help of the inspectors.

The issue is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean. And the answer is not much more time. Iraq's time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end.

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