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Blix 'not satisfied' with Iraq's weapons accounting

ElBaradei: Iraq's aluminum tubes not likely used for nukes

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix:
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix: "We do not want to have interviews where people are intimidated."

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PERSPECTIVE

The Los Angeles Times' Robin Wright
asks "Can Saddam Be Coaxed Into Exile?" in a story, excerpted here: 

"Arab envoys are talking behind the scenes about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's political future, while the European Union plans a mediation mission next month.

"The prospect of success ... basically boils down to a single question: Would the Iraqi leader be willing to surrender power?

"The Bush administration appears to consider that an option ... After declaring that war is not inevitable, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday: 'The first choice would be that Saddam Hussein would pick up and leave the country tonight. That would be nice for everybody.'"

The response from Iraq to such suggestions, however, writes Wright, has been "a blustery and definitive 'no way.'"

"'I'd like to assure you that Hussein will continue to defend his homeland. He is one of the leaders who will never leave his country and will fight till the last drop of blood,' said Abbas Khalaf, Iraq's ambassador to Russia."
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Australia cancels leave for its special forces units, increasing speculation of a Australian commitment to military action in Iraq. Channel 7 Australia reports. (January 9)
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• Special Report: Showdown: Iraq 

(CNN) -- With events moving closer to a possible war with Iraq, here is a look at some of the latest developments around the world:

ROAD TO WAR?

• INTERIM REPORT ON INSPECTIONS: Iraq violated U.N. sanctions by importing missile engines as recently as 2002 and delivered an "inadequate" list of scientists and technicians involved in its weapons programs, the chief U.N. weapons inspector told the U.N. Security Council Thursday. Hans Blix also said he is "not satisfied" with Iraq's accounting of its weapons programs, saying Baghdad's declaration does not adequately account for stockpiles of the chemical agent VX. Blix reported that his inspectors have visited 135 sites in Iraq so far. He said inspectors have obtained "a lot of information" from interviews with scientists so far, but "we do not want to have interviews where people are intimidated." U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte said U.S. officials are providing "full support" to inspectors, including "experts, information, analysis and equipment." (Full story)

• ELBARADEI: TUBES NOT FOR WEAPONS: Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that aluminum tubes the United States has said Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons appear unlikely to be used for that purpose. "The question is still open, but we believe at this stage that these aluminum tubes were intended for the manufacturing of rockets," ElBaradei said.

• B-1 BOMBERS DEPART: Three U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers left their South Dakota home base Wednesday for deployment in the Persian Gulf region for possible military action over Iraq, according to Air Force officials. The bombers are the first of many expected to be deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, home to 26 of the sleek, supersonic B-1 Lancers that are capable of carrying dozens of bombs, including precision-guided weapons. (Full story, 3-D interactive model of the B-1)

• 'STOP-LOSS' FOR MARINES: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones issued an order stopping all military personnel from leaving the service for one year. Thursday's unusual step applies to both the 173,000 active-duty personnel and 100,000 reserve Marines as the military branch prepares for possible war against Iraq. It takes effect January 15.

WAR OF WORDS

• "Iraq is missing an important opportunity to clear up those remaining questions, which the declaration [on Iraqi weapons programs] has failed to do," said Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock on Thursday after the Security Council was briefed by weapons inspection chief Hans Blix. Greenstock said Iraq has offered "passive cooperation" by not interfering with inspectors' efforts inside Iraq. But Baghdad must offer more "proactive cooperation" in order to comply with U.N. disarmament demands -- "the kind of cooperation that would be needed to clear up the remaining questions."

• Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs "failed to answer a great many questions," but U.N. officials have found "no smoking gun," the U.N.'s chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Thursday. A U.N. official said inspectors are finding "more holes" in Iraq's accounting of its weapons programs, "in all categories," but would not specify particular gaps. "We are getting intelligence from several sources and I will not go into the operative part of that," Blix said. "But it's clear that this will be helpful in the future to us."

• U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell tells The Washington Post the United States within the past several days has begun providing U.N. weapons inspectors with "significant" intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs, enabling inspectors to become "more aggressive and to be more comprehensive in the work they're doing." But Powell says the Bush administration is still holding back some of its most sensitive information, waiting to see if inspectors "are able to handle it and exploit it. ... It is not a matter of opening up every door that we have," he says.

IMPACT

• This week, the Kuwaiti government is sending its Muslim citizens a message, re-issuing a five-year "fatwa," or religious decree, that forbids the killing of non-Muslims. "It is not allowed in Islam, and illegal, to harm or to kill or to abuse any non-Muslim who is living in the Muslim countries," says Ahmed Baqr, the Kuwaiti minister of Islamic affairs. In October, one U.S. Marine died and another was wounded when two Kuwaitis ambushed U.S. troops during a training exercise. The following weeks brought several other anti-American incidents, but no more deaths. More U.S. troops arrived in Kuwait this week.



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