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Analysis: U.N. Weapons Inspectors' Report Complicates Efforts By United States And Great Britain To Convince U.N. Security Council Of Necessity Of War Against Iraq

Weekend Edition Saturday: February 15, 2003

U.N. Council Remains Cool to War Resolution

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Representatives of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council are returning to their capitals this weekend to consult on the next steps in the debate over how to disarm Iraq. Yesterday chief UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei gave their latest assessment of Iraq's cooperation with disarmament demands. It was somewhat more positive than the inspectors' last report to the council on January 27th. Although inspectors said many questions remain to be answered, the report is likely to complicate efforts by the United States and Great Britain to convince the rest of the council that war against Iraq might be necessary. NPR's Vicky O'Hara reports.

VICKY O'HARA reporting:

As expected, Blix and ElBaradei gave mixed reviews of Iraq's cooperation. They said they found no evidence that Iraq has chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. But as Hans Blix said, there has not been enough cooperation by Iraq over a long enough period of time to draw firm conclusions. The US and Britain maintain Iraq has not complied with the UN and will not in the future. They say it's time to do something about it. Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out that even the inspectors themselves say they're not satisfied.

Secretary COLIN POWELL (State Department): Both inspectors, at the end of their statements, indicated clearly that they have not yet seen the kind of level of cooperation that would bring this matter to a conclusion.

O'HARA: But three permanent members of the Security Council with veto power are not willing to conclude that Iraq still cannot be disarmed peacefully. Representatives of France, Russia and China all called for the continuation of weapons inspections as long as the inspectors are making progress. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is leading the opposition to war. Speaking through an interpreter, he called for tripling the number of inspectors, increasing aerial surveillance and giving peace a chance.

Mr. DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN (French Foreign Minister): (Through Translator) In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience. The onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament through peace.

O'HARA: The French foreign minister concluded by saying that France is an old country that has known war, occupation and barbarity.

Mr. DE VILLEPIN: (Through Translator) It is an old country that does not forget and is very aware of all it owes to freedom fighters who came from America and elsewhere; and yet, France has always stood upright in the face of history before mankind.

O'HARA: The French foreign minister called on the Security Council to work together to build a better world, and his audience reacted.

SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE

O'HARA: It was a rare break with normal Security Council decorum. Council President Joschka Fischer of Germany silenced the applause with his gavel.

SOUNDBITE OF GAVEL

O'HARA: But the applause indicates just what the United States and Britain are up against in the days ahead. They're working on a new resolution that would call for stronger action by the Security Council to enforce its authority. State Department officials say the language of the resolution is still under discussion, but depending on what happens over the next few days, they say, it could be introduced early next week. Secretary of State Powell was asked about the resolution as he wound up his day in New York.

Sec'y POWELL: With respect to action on another resolution, I will go back to Washington, consult with my colleagues, consult with the president and talk to other members of the council and make a judgment in the not-too-distant future.

O'HARA: The Bush administration clearly faces an uphill battle to convince most council members to sign on to a resolution that could lead directly to war. Over the next few days, council members will engage in intense discussions behind the scenes, and on Tuesday the council will convene again for another public session. It will give UN member nations who are not on the Security Council a chance to express their views. Vicky O'Hara, NPR News, New York.

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