Our top story, the debate continues to build over weapons inspections in Iraq and possible military action against Saddam Hussein regime for not dismantling the country's weapons of mass destruction. This as a looming confrontation appears to be unfolding at the United Nations in New York where the United States is vowing to block a deal to begin returning weapons inspectors to Iraq. Our Chris Simkins with more on the latest developments on Iraq.
In a matter of weeks U.N. weapons inspectors could be back in Iraq looking for illegal nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. In Vienna, Austria this week U.N. and Iraqi delegations agreed on the conditions for new inspections. Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix says Iraq agreed to uphold its pledge to allow unfettered access to suspected weapons sites.
HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. INSPECTOR
"We would like to ensure that if and when inspections come about we will not have clashes inside."
An advance U.N. inspection team could be in Iraq by mid October. But the Bush administration says the new rules are too soft. Under the agreement inspectors would not be able to visit eight of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces scattered around the country without prior notice. U.N. arms inspectors left Iraq four years ago after being repeatedly blocked from looking for biological and chemical weapons. Two weeks ago Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein agreed to allow U.N. arms inspectors to return to the country. But since then Iraqi officials have been sending mixed messages. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz promised cooperation, but criticized the efforts by the United States to push for a new tougher U.N. resolution.
TARIQ AZIZ, IRAQ DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
"This proposal of the United States is unacceptable not only by Iraq but it is unacceptable by the Security Council because there is no need for a new resolution."
In Washington, President Bush continued to try and build support for a strongly worded U.N. resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to disarm immediately or face a full-scale military attack.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
"Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the world. He is a threat to the neighborhood, he is a threat to Israel, and he is a threat to the United States of America. We are going to have to deal with him and the best way to deal with him is for the world to rise up and say "you disarm or we will disarm you." And if not at the very end of the day if nothing happens the United States along with others will act."
U.S. officials say they will block new weapons inspections in Iraq until a new U.N. resolution is passed. On Capitol Hill, U.S. lawmakers are debating their own resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. However, there's growing opposition among mostly democratic lawmakers who are not convinced a war with Iraq is necessary. Some have offered a compromise resolution that would make dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction the only trigger for a military attack. There was also open opposition to President Bush coming from U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott. On a humanitarian mission to Baghdad, Congressman McDermott, a democrat from Washington State, openly criticized President Bush's policy on Iraq.
JIM MCDERMOTT, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE
"They said they would allow us to go look anywhere we wanted. And until they (Iraq) don't there is no need to do this coercive stuff where you bring in helicopters and armed people and storm buildings."
There's also opposition to the Bush administration's policy from key U.N. Security Council nations such as France, Russia and China. Those nations are divided about adopting a new resolution that authorizes a military attack if Baghdad prevents weapons inspectors from doing their job. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the U.S. will continue to make its case for a strong resolution.
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
"Pressure works and we are going to keep it up, we are going to work with our partners in the Security Council to put in place a new resolution. A new resolution that has to have associated with it consequences for failure on a part of the Iraqis to act and to respond."
But senior Bush administration officials are making it clear that if the United Nations fails to make Saddam Hussein dismantle his weapons of mass destruction, U.S. military action against Iraq remains a strong option.