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Bush: 'Defining moment' for Security Council

Russia: Political solution possible

President Bush urges the U.N. Security Council to take action to back its resolution on disarming Iraq

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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- President Bush said Friday that the U.N. Security Council was at a "defining moment," saying now was the time to decide whether its resolution ordering Iraq to disarm "will have any force" and whether the council or its word "means anything."

"If the Security Council were to allow a dictator to lie and deceive, the Security Council will be weakened," Bush told reporters outside the Treasury Department.

"I'm confident that when the members assess their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the U.N., that they will understand that [Resolution] 1441 must be upheld in the fullest."

The president said Secretary of State Colin Powell effectively made the case this week before the Security Council that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has not destroyed weapons of mass destruction. Resolution 1441, which the council passed in November, requires Iraq to disarm its weapons or prove it disarmed.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued a stern warning Friday to Iraqi military commanders considering deploying chemical and biological weapons. The United States has accused Saddam of authorizing the use of chemical weapons in the event of a war.

"We are sending very clear messages to people around [Saddam] that they would be well-advised not to use those weapons," Rumsfeld said at a news conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "In the event, they do, they would wish they hadn't."

Rumsfeld was making a series of visits with key European allies ahead of a weekend security conference in Munich, Germany. (Full story)

The secretary also visited troops at Aviano Air Force Base in Italy, taking questions from some of the U.S. forces stationed there.

He told the troops that a military conflict would last "six days, six weeks, I doubt six months" but that "the last choice is war."

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday that Russia did not see "any grounds" at this time for a second Security Council resolution that would approve military action against Iraq. Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power.

"The problems of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq can be solved by political means," Ivanov said. "There are all opportunities for that." (Full story)

Latest developments

• French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Friday that the Iraq crisis "is not a game" and it is "not over." Raffarin took issue with Bush's comment Thursday that Saddam had thrown away his "final chance" and that "the game is over." French President Jacques Chirac said Powell's presentation to the Security Council, while powerful, was not enough reason to turn from inspections to war. (Full story)

• The first Iraqi scientist to be interviewed in private by U.N. weapons inspectors said Friday that a top Iraqi official had persuaded him to do so. Iraqi science adviser Amer al-Saadi said it was Gen. Hussam Amin, head of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, who spoke with him and convinced him to participate in the interview Thursday.(Full story)

• The U.S. government raised the national terrorism threat level Friday from an elevated risk of terrorist attacks to a high risk, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced. It is only the second time that the color-coded alert system has been increased from yellow, or elevated risk, to orange for high risk since it was developed after the September 11 attacks. Ashcroft said U.S. intelligence shows that "al Qaeda is still determined to attack Americans." (Full story)

• Iraqi officials brought journalists Friday to two sites Powell discussed in his address to the Security Council, saying the journalists' visit would help prove false U.S. allegations that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction. Powell showed satellite images of the sites, al-Rafah and al-Mussayib, saying the pictures indicated Iraq was manufacturing missiles with a range exceeding U.N. limits.

• France said Friday that NATO should not yet begin preparing to protect Turkey in the event of war with Iraq because U.N. inspectors needed more time to examine Iraq's weapons program, Reuters reported. In an interview with that news agency, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said France would oppose preparations when NATO revisits the issue next week.

• The British government confirmed Friday that parts of its recently released intelligence report on Iraq were taken from other sources without attribution but downplayed critics' charges of plagiarism. Several academics complained Thursday that most of the material was lifted from scholarly journals, including a paper by Ibrahim al-Marashi, whose university thesis appeared to be quoted. (Full story)

• In a BBC interview, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that, if one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were to veto a second resolution on military action to disarm Iraq, he would still support an attack. (Full story)

• Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Friday that Iraq appears to be trying to be more cooperative ahead of his weekend visit to Baghdad. Blix spoke after Iraq, for the first time, allowed arms inspectors to interview an Iraqi scientist in private. (Full story)

• U.N. weapons inspectors visited at least four sites Friday in Iraq, including military facilities and pesticide warehouses, Iraqi officials said.

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