U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held talks at the United Nations Wednesday with foreign ministers from other U.N. Security Council member states about Iraq and the possibility of U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein. The brief meetings came on the eve of President Bush's address on the subject to the U.N. General Assembly.
The occasion was a special Security Council meeting on the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks.
But a spokeswoman says Mr. Powell used the opportunity for brief "pull-aside" meetings with at least seven foreign ministers on the need for the international community "to deal with" Iraq's violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The list includes Mr. Powell's counterparts from Britain, France, China and Russia the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, along with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Mr. Powell's informal diplomacy came in advance of President's Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly Thursday in which he is to spell out in detail the administration's case against Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Bush will be preceded to the podium by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who aides say will caution against any military move against Iraq that does not have the blessing of the United Nations.
In an apparent preview of his General Assembly speech, Mr. Annan told Wednesday's memorial meeting of the Security Council that the U.S.-led war on terrorism had international legitimacy because of explicit support from the United Nations.
"The legitimacy that the United Nations conveys can insure that the greatest number of states are able and willing to take the necessary and difficult steps, diplomatic, legal and political, that are needed to defeat terrorism," he said. "Today, one year after the attacks, the importance of global legitimacy in the fight against terrorism has only grown. I call on the council to strive even harder to ensure that the struggle ahead wins the highest possible support. All humanity has stake in this fight. The United Nations must ensure that it is fought in unison and won in a legitimate way."
Mr. Annan's aides, who took the unusual step of releasing the themes of his Thursday speech in advance, said the secretary-general will also warn that the United States' leadership in the world will be weakened if it chooses to act on Iraq without U.N. authorization.
Secretary Powell's meeting with German Foreign Minister Fischer follows outspoken criticism of possible military action against Iraq from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has said his country would not commit forces to any such effort.
A German official here said Foreign Minister Fischer expressed similar concerns to Mr. Powell, and also told him a new war in the Gulf might threaten stability in the Middle East and the cohesion of the international coalition against terrorism.