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Annan Prods Security Council on Iraq Arms Inspections

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is prodding the Security Council to take a decisive stand on the issue of arms inspections in Iraq, as the Bush administration continues to warn of possible military action to oust Saddam Hussein.

The Security Council is likely to come under increasing pressure in the next week or two to make a decision on Iraq. U.S. President George W. Bush and other national leaders will be at the United Nations to attend the new session of the General Assembly. The American president is expected to present his case against Iraq in a formal speech Thursday.

The United States says Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, including the capability of building a nuclear bomb, in violation of a U.N. ban imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq has not allowed U.N. arms inspections for nearly four years, and the Bush administration is debating possible military action to remove Saddam Hussein.

Most U.S. allies say Washington should not act without U.N. approval. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agrees, saying the Security Council should be making those kinds of decisions. "I think it is important to stress that the Security Council, which has been seized with the Iraqi issue for so long, should have something to say," he said. "I think it is appropriate for the Council to pronounce itself on the issue."

The U.N. leader has expressed skepticism about using the military option, in any case. Mr. Annan says there are too many unpredictable elements associated with the use of force, including what kind of Iraq would emerge post-invasion. "Many people are worried about unexpected consequences," he said. "The question is the morning after. And I would not want to throw out any guesses, but I am concerned, as well. What sort of Iraq do we wake up to after the bombing? And what happens in the region?"

U.S. allies are pressing Washington not to go it alone. France has proposed two U.N. resolutions. One would set a deadline for Iraq to let the U.N. arms inspectors back in, followed by another on whether to take military action.

These avenues will be explored in the coming days as high-level discussions continue in New York.