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Historic day at the U.N.

By Wolf Blitzer
CNN

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Powell addresses the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Watching Secretary of State Colin Powell speak at the U.N. Security Council Friday, I couldn't help but sense he was on the defensive. I am sure he wasn't very happy with what chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei told the 15 council members. They both seemed to stress the positive when it comes to Iraqi cooperation in the weapons hunt. At one point, Blix directly questioned a key piece of evidence against Iraq the secretary had brought to the United Nations only a few days earlier.

I am also certain the secretary was frustrated by what he heard from several key U.S. allies, including France and Germany. The French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, questioned some of Powell's earlier presentation, including the U.S. assertion of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. "Nothing allows us to establish such links," the French foreign minister said flatly. And later, when he left the Security Council, he told reporters: "Give peace a chance."

Powell and other U.S. officials, while perhaps on the defensive, are not backing down. They continue to insist the inspections have effectively run their course. They say the Iraqis could have cooperated all along, including during these past 11 weeks.

When President Bush spoke later in the day at FBI headquarters, he certainly was not showing any give. "When I speak about the war on terror," he said, "I not only talk about al Qaeda, I talk about Iraq because, after all, Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction and he has used them. Saddam Hussein is used to deceiving the world and he continues to do so. Saddam Hussein has got ties to terrorist networks. Saddam Hussein is a danger and that is why he will be disarmed one way or the other."

I can only imagine how Iraqi officials are assessing all of this. They may believe they have split the allies and bought themselves some time and they have. But if they think the prospects of military force have gone away, I think they will be mistaken. Based on what I am hearing from top Bush administration officials, President Bush remains determined to do precisely what he promises -- disarm Iraq one way or another. That means a war is still very possible even if several U.S. allies remains at odds with Washington.


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