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UK and Russia warn Iraq

U.N. weapons inspectors visit to the General Company for Agricultural Equipment at Jarf el-Nadaf south of Baghdad
U.N. weapons inspectors visit to the General Company for Agricultural Equipment at Jarf el-Nadaf south of Baghdad

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has accused Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein of systematically deceiving U.N. arms inspectors over his weapons programs.

And Russia has warned Baghdad that it could move closer to Washington's position if U.N. inspectors were hampered in their hunt for signs of banned nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Both countries are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- holding the power of veto over any future resolution to attack Iraq -- but have differing views on the best way forward.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Tuesday inspectors needed more time to carry out their work.

But he warned Moscow would withdraw support for a diplomatic solution if Iraq created obstacles for the inspection teams.

In London, Straw said the report delivered to the Security Council in New York on Monday by the heads of the inspection teams had underlined that Saddam's regime was not only failing to co-operate with the UN effort, but concealing vital information.

"The conclusion is now inescapable that Iraq is in material breach of Resolution 1441," Straw told reporters at the Foreign Office in London. "But, I also say this: That war is not inevitable."

"The report which the chief weapons inspector Dr. Hans Blix gave to the U.N. Security Council yesterday is damning and disturbing," he said.

"It shows beyond doubt that the Iraqi regime is responding to resolution 1441 not with active co-operation but with a consistent pattern of concealment and deceit."

Straw said Iraq was now in "further material breach" of the two key tests set out in U.N . resolution 1441. "The situation is very serious," he said.

The charges by the foreign secretary came a day after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq had yet to reach a "genuine acceptance" of its obligation to disarm. (Excerpts)

U.N. inspectors have not declared Baghdad to be in "material breach."

Straw said no decisions about military action had yet been taken, and the government continued to "fervently wish" that Iraq would disarm in a peaceful manner.

But he warned: "What Iraq has to understand is that time is running out and if it doesn't comply with the requirements of the international community ... then serious consequences will follow."

Saddam Hussein must answer the questions raised by Blix's report "very promptly indeed", Straw warned.

"The onus is now on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime to answer those questions not with bluster and delay, not with evasion but with credible evidence that Iraq's terrible weaponry either has been destroyed or will be destroyed in full and active co-operation with United Nations inspectors," he said.

Six hundred weeks had been wasted since the Security Council first demanded that Iraq disarm, he added.

"It is now clear what exactly Saddam Hussein has been working so hard to conceal.

"The world can now see the pattern of non-co-operation by which he hides his weapons, his poisons, his diseases."

Both U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell have publicly said the United States has intelligence showing Iraqi officials working to stymie the inspectors.

Powell said on Monday inspectors also have reported that they have indications of Iraqi concealment efforts.

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, U.S. President Bush is also expected to make the case for a possible war against Iraq. (Full story)


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