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White House to Blix: 'Don't take no for an answer'

From Elise Labott (CNN Washington Bureau)

Mohamed Elbaradei, left, and Hans Blix, right, will talk to senior U.S. officials on Friday about Iraq.
Mohamed Elbaradei, left, and Hans Blix, right, will talk to senior U.S. officials on Friday about Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration will urge the chief U.N. weapons inspector "not to take no for an answer" from Iraq when he comes to the White House Friday, senior State Department officials told CNN.

Hans Blix, just back from two days of talks in Vienna with Iraqi officials, will travel to Washington for talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"We are going to tell him to go any time, any place you need to go, and we will support you," one senior official said. "Those are really the only inspections that will satisfy the international community."

Iraq has agreed to allow weapons inspectors to return for the first time since 1998, but the United States says their efforts will be fruitless without a new U.N. resolution threatening military action if Baghdad should obstruct their efforts.

The U.N. Security Council met Thursday with Blix, who indicated inspectors might put off their return as the council debates the question.

"It would be awkward if we were doing inspections and then a new mandate, with new, changed directives were to arise," Blix said. "It would be better have those earlier. My impression is that there is good intensity with talks about that, and we will abide by whatever the council decides."

Blix will continue preparations for returning inspectors to Iraq while the U.N.

Security Council discusses whether to adopt a new resolution on Iraq, said Kofi Annan, the international body's secretary-general.

"Blix until now has been guided by approved Security Council resolutions," said Annan. "If the council were to pass a new resolution giving him fresh guidelines, he will have to factor that in before he continues with his work, which will be up to the council ... to determine what the next stage will be."

The secretary-general added, "I think from the discussions Blix had in Vienna there is a basis to go forward."

Powell has said inspectors should not return to Iraq without a resolution. Thursday, he reiterated the need for a new resolution that highlights "Iraq's failings, and also puts forward a strengthened inspection regime that will be determined by the Security Council and not by Iraq so that Dr. Blix had all the authority to do the job that needs to be done."

'Loose ends' to address

State Department officials said they were encouraged by Blix's comments, delivered after the meeting, that there were still "loose ends" that a Security Council resolution could resolve. For example, they said, one unanswered issue is the lingering conditions governing the inspection of presidential palaces, which were negotiated in 1999 between Annan and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The senior State Department official said that during Friday's talks, the White House would press Blix on his "readiness and capabilities" for conducting inspections.

"We really want to see how we can help him," said the official, who requested anonymity. Powell would also ask Blix about "what sort of authority" in a Security Council resolution might better help him conduct his mission, the official said.

A current U.S.-proposed draft of the U.N. Security Council resolution calls for Iraq to declare its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program within 30 days and authorizes the use of "all means necessary" against Iraq if it fails to comply.

Another official said Powell plans to talk with Blix about "what his game plan will look like."

"Our interests are making it as tough as possible as quickly as possible," the official said. "We want to test Saddam's willingness early on because we don't think he is capable of doing this.

"We want to prove once and for all we aren't going to get anywhere," said the official who also asked not to be named. "We don't want to be stuck in the same situation down the road and lose the momentum we have now."

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