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France, UK pressure Iraq

Blix Chirac
Chirac, right, backed Blix's call to give inspections more time

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Iraq's director of monitoring claims the empty chemical warheads are leftover from 1996 U.N. inspections. CNN's Rym Brahimi reports (January 16)
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Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq must be proactive and produce evidence that it is no longer producing weapons of mass destruction. (January 16)
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LONDON, England -- France and Britain has added to the pressure on Saddam Hussein after separate briefings by senior United Nations weapons inspectors.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the Iraqi president to "take full advantage" of the inspection regime and the chance it offers to disarm.

In Paris, President Jacques Chirac said it would be wise to give the inspectors more time to hunt down any weapons of mass destruction or development programs in Iraq.

U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, and Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, met the two leaders whose countries are both on permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

The meetings came a day after inspectors discovered 11 empty chemical warheads at the Ukhaider ammunition storage area, 75 miles south of Baghdad, and ahead of a planned visit to Iraq by Blix and ElBaradei.

Washington has called the find "troubling and serious" but has so far not said the find is a "material breach" -- which could be the trigger for military action -- of Iraq's commitments to the United Nations (Full story)

In a written statement released after Blair's one hour briefing at his official country residence Chequers, the prime minister's spokesman said: "Mr. Blair stressed how important it was for Saddam to take full advantage of this opportunity to disarm.

"He welcomed the continuing build up in the intensity of the inspections as more inspectors arrived in Iraq and as their resources improved."

Earlier on Friday, Chirac said "wisdom would obligate us to respect" requests by Blix and ElBaradei for extra time.

The French president also said going to war is "always a statement of failure," and his country would remain within international law and rules and not act alone.

"The inspectors have received their mission from the United Nations Security Council, and it is up to the Security Council alone to make a decision with regard to the reports," he said.

"If one country or another were to act outside that framework, then they would be acting against the international community and France would not uphold that."

Blix and ElBaradei used the meetings to repeat demand that Iraq is pro-active in its cooperation with his teams rather than merely cooperating to the letter of their commitments.

ElBaradei said: "Iraq has to come forward and take a proactive approach to prove they are clean.

"We would like to see Iraq come with physical evidence, that is what we mean when we say not enough to provide positive cooperation."

Blix said that so far it was not possible to say with confidence that there are no weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in a televised speech to mark the 12th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War on Friday, called on his country to "stand firm" in the face of evil. (Full story)

He said Iraqis must take up arms and "ambush" the enemies of their country.

Baghdad downplayed the discovery of the warheads, saying the items did not constitute weapons of mass destruction and that they were "forgotten" materials.

Dimitri Perricos -- the leader of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) team in Baghdad -- said the discovery of chemical warheads "may not be a smoking gun" that would indicate Iraq had violated U.N. resolutions.

A 12th warhead is still being evaluated, and all have been described as being in "excellent condition." (Full Story)

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