Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Plaudits, but not support, for Powell

UN ADDRESS The US secretary of state might have shown that Iraq was up to no good, but still failed to convince skeptics that war was the only way to stop it


Though praised for presenting a compelling case that Iraq is blocking weapons inspections, US Secretary of State Colin Powell failed to rally much new support behind Washington's claim Saddam Hussein has had enough time to disarm and must now face the consequences.

The response coming from Washington's staunchest allies to Powell's presentation Wednesday before the UN's Security Council was quick and supportive.

Britain called the evidence "powerful." Spain said it was "compelling." Australia's foreign minister, noting that his country had provided some of the evidence Powell used, said the speech showed a "deeply disturbing pattern of deceit" by Saddam.

Italy and the Netherlands also lauded Powell, and Israel's Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had "laid bare the true nature of Saddam Hussein's regime and ... exposed the great dangers that emanate from this regime to the region and to the world."

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told Parliament yesterday that Powell's speech had deepened suspicions over Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, and said Iraq holds the key to whether a peaceful solution can be reached.

But Powell's 80-minute presentation of tape recordings, satellite photos and statements from informants appeared to do little to win over countries that have already expressed doubts over America's hard-line stance.

France and Germany said they needed to review the evidence and wanted to give weapons inspectors more time.

"The dangers of a military action and its consequences are plain to see," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency. "We must continue to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis."

The two countries both threw their support Wednesday behind strengthening weapons inspections instead of rushing to military action.

"The use of force can only be a final recourse," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said, offering specific proposals to beef up inspections, including doubling or tripling the number of inspectors.

Russia was also not swayed from its support of the need for more inspections.

"The information provided today by the US secretary of state once again convincingly indicates the fact that the activities of the international inspectors in Iraq must be continued," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said that military action against Iraq should be avoided "as long as there still is the slightest hope for a political settlement."

Canada also put its weight behind further inspections.

"We need to give that inspection system a last chance, maybe one, maybe two, over a couple of weeks," Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said Wednesday in Ottawa after Powell's speech before the foreign ministers and ambassadors from the 15 Security Council countries.

Of the 15 Council members, only the US and Britain have voiced support for forcibly disarming Saddam. Bulgaria and Spain are considered likely members of a coalition should the US go to war.

"Iraq has now placed itself in danger of serious consequences," Powell said.

Iraqi officials, meanwhile, said the presentation was aimed at undermining the work of the UN arms inspectors.

Leiutenant General Amir al-Saadi, an Iraqi presidential adviser, suggested the monitored conversations Powell played were fabricated, that defector informants were unreliable and that satellite photographs Powell displayed "proved nothing."

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