U.N. report reinforces Security Council divisions
Powell: Iraq will determine war or peace
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The chief U.N. weapons inspectors' reports Friday gave the divided Security Council members more ammunition to bolster their opposing positions on whether Iraq is cooperating with efforts to verify its disarmament or should face "serious consequences."
In their third progress report since U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed in November, inspectors told the council they had not found any weapons of mass destruction, but they urged Iraq to be more cooperative.
Hans Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said they were still investigating and had not ruled out the possibility that Iraq does possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
After the presentations, France, China and Russia suggested giving the inspectors more time, and the United States, Britain and Spain said Iraq was not complying with Resolution 1441. (Quotes from council session)
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell later said the reports led to "a good, spirited debate" among council members, but said Iraq was running out of time to fully comply with inspections.
"The burden now is on Saddam Hussein with respect to the question of whether there will be war or peace," he said, adding that the answer could come in a matter of weeks.
At the council table, Powell said the progress that Blix and ElBaradei outlined was simply "process" and not substance, and said that Iraq's recent steps "are all tricks that are being played on us." (Transcript)
However, the foreign ministers of China, Russia and France said the inspections need time to work.
"Inspections are producing results. ... The option of inspections has not been taken to the end," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said. "The use of force would be so fraught with risk for people, for the region and for international stability that it should only be envisioned as a last resort."
De Villepin called for a meeting March 14 to hear again from the inspectors.
France, China and Russia are permanent council members, along with the United States and Britain, and can veto resolutions.
Mohammed Aldouri, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, said his country has cooperated with inspectors and proved that it does not possess weapons of mass destruction.
"An empty hand has nothing to give. You cannot give what you don't have. If we do not possess such weapons, how can we disarm ourselves of such weapons? Indeed, how can they be disarmed when they don't exist?" Aldouri asked the council.
Iraq also informed the United Nations on Friday that it was giving up its turn next month to hold the chair of the Geneva-based Disarmament Conference. (Full story)
President Bush said Iraqi leader "Saddam Hussein was used to deceiving the world," but said he would be disarmed "one way or another."
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Friday evening that if the United States opts to take action against Iraq -- without the blessing of the United Nations -- it would have plenty of company.
The coalition "will very likely be as large or larger than the coalition that existed in the Gulf War," Rumsfeld said. "The United States will not go it alone. It will go with a great many countries."
Progress reported, but questions remain
Blix said perhaps the most important inspection issue is determining what happened to stores of anthrax, VX nerve agent and long-range missiles that Iraq previously was known to have.
One document suggests that "some 1,000 tons of chemical agent were unaccounted for," but Baghdad has begun to provide more information that could help lead to answers, Blix added.
He said it is Baghdad's responsibility -- "not the task of inspectors" -- to find such evidence, he said.
He said Iraq's al-Samoud 2 model of missile exceeds the range of 93 miles (150 kilometers) allowed by U.N. resolutions. Iraqi officials have said the missile does not yet have a guidance system, which would reduce its range.
Blix also said a small number of empty chemical munitions had been found, "which should have been declared and destroyed."
ElBaradei told CNN he would probably need six months to complete inspections of Iraq's nuclear programs. He also said additional inspectors would enable him to freeze certain sites, conduct simultaneous inspections of various sites and monitor imports of certain materials.
He told the council that the inspections can succeed even without complete cooperation from Baghdad -- contradicting what U.S., British and other officials have said.
He said Iraq has provided immediate access to all inspection locations and that four Iraqi scientists have been interviewed in private.
"We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear activities in Iraq," ElBaradei said, adding that there are "a number of issues under investigation, and we're not in a position to reach a conclusion about them."
For example, he said, though Iraq has not imported uranium in recent years, it has attempted to procure it -- though he added that it was not clear what such stores, if they exist, might be used for.
For more on latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.