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Powell says he'll offer no 'smoking gun' on Iraq

Secretary of state to address Security Council on Wednesday

Powell met with Emir Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain on Monday.
Powell met with Emir Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain on Monday.

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CNN's Nic Robertson reports on what U.N. weapons inspectors found in Iraq and other developments on the inspection front (February 3)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that he will present "no smoking gun" when he addresses the U.N. Security Council this week but will show that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is not complying with a U.N. resolution to disarm.

Powell is expected to make a one-hour, public presentation Wednesday with photographs and perhaps transcripts of intercepted conversations in an effort to prove senior Iraqi officials have been hiding weapons and evidence of weapon programs from U.N. inspectors.

"While there will be no 'smoking gun,' we will provide evidence concerning the weapons programs that Iraq is working so hard to hide," he said in a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal. "We will, in sum, offer a straightforward, sober and compelling demonstration that Saddam is concealing the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction, while preserving the weapons themselves."

U.N. Resolution 1441 calls on Iraq to destroy any chemical, nuclear and biological weapons or face serious consequences. Iraq has consistently denied possessing such weapons.

International backing for any military consequences has been spotty. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush's most loyal supporter, called again Monday for a second U.N. resolution before any military action against Iraq is launched.

The Bush administration also faces resistance at home, with just 29 percent of Americans seeing Iraq as an immediate threat and about half calling for weapons inspections to be given more time to uncover evidence against Iraq, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

In the poll of 1,003 American adults, carried out January 31-February 2, about half of respondents said they have not made up their minds on Iraq, and 60 percent said Powell's presentation to the Security Council will be a very important factor in their decision.

Iraq's U.N. ambassador has asked to address the Security Council after Powell.

"There will not be evidence on the question of weapons of mass destruction on Iraq and also on the relationship with al Qaeda," Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said. "I'm confident [Powell] can't present such evidence."

Security Council ambassadors are expected to consider Aldouri's request when they meet in a closed session Tuesday to discuss the month's schedule.

U.S. official: No objection to Iraqi speech

A U.S. official told CNN that the United States has no objection to Iraq speaking at the meeting.

"We certainly aren't against them speaking," the U.S. official said. "We think the scientists should speak; we think anyone should speak if they want to. This is a free country -- unlike Iraq."

When asked about the conditions set forth in chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix's and Mohamed ElBaradei's response to Iraq's invitation for them to return to Baghdad for discussions, Aldouri said, "I think all these issues will be [the] subject of negotiation," when the two reach Iraq.

Two U.N. weapons inspectors speak with a member of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate.
Two U.N. weapons inspectors speak with a member of the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate.

The inspectors have asked Iraq to allow U-2 surveillance flights and private interviews with scientists, and for Iraq to adopt national legislation that would ban weapons of mass destruction.

Blix and ElBaradei are to travel to Baghdad this weekend, a time both consider critical in the 12-year, U.S.-led effort to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

Although "there are no guarantees," Blix told reporters he is optimistic. "I think that it's a moment when the Iraqis ought to decide to be cooperative on substance."

European Parliament member offers 'fresh evidence'

At the United Nations, a member of the European Parliament handed to Blix what she said was "fresh evidence from Iraqi people themselves of storage and resource acquisition of weapons of mass destruction."

The information "has not been given to anybody else before," said Emma Nicholson, vice chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee and a human rights advocate. She offered reporters no evidence to support her claim.

At International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, ElBaradei called on Iraq to cooperate with inspectors. "The international community is getting impatient," he said.

The inspectors are to report back to the Security Council on February 14.

In Iraq, U.N. weapons inspectors visited several sites Monday and found a missile 20 cm [8 inches] in diameter at the Al Nidaa state company, the official Iraqi News Agency said.

In addition, the team found a damaged warhead belonging to a Lunar missile, which has a range of 42 miles, the agency said.

"The team leader was informed that this warhead is [a] leftover and has nothing to do with past proscribed programs," it added.

The warhead was mentioned in Iraq's weapons declaration to the United Nations last year, the agency said.

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