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Secretary Powell, UN Chief Weapons Inspector Discuss Iraq - 2002-10-05


Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says he supports a new Security Council resolution on Iraq, and that inspection teams should not go back to that country until the current debate in the council on the issue is resolved. Mr. Blix met Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior Bush administration officials in Washington late Friday.

The deal Mr. Blix reached with Iraqi officials in Vienna Tuesday on logistics for new inspections raised concern in Washington that the U.N. teams might go back to Iraq without tougher new rules governing the weapons searches.

But meeting reporters after talks with Secretary Powell, Mr. Blix acknowledged he found broad support on the Security Council for a new resolution when he briefed ambassadors Thursday in New York, and said any return of inspectors will await the verdict of the council.

"We hope that the path will not be very long to a new resolution. And the convergence that we began to see yesterday, I think, is a hopeful one." he said. "But I also explained to everybody that it would be somewhat awkward for us to go in, and then find that a new resolution was coming which would ask us to go something more or different, which would require other practical arrangements. So we look forward to a speedy negotiation of a resolution, and for us to come in very shortly thereafter."

Secretary Powell, for his part, conceded that the Security Council negotiations have been difficult. But he said he is optimistic the council will find a way forward, and said the United States continues to press for a single new resolution toughening the inspection rules and threatening Iraq with consequences if it doesn't comply.

"We still believe a one-resolution solution is the better way to go," said Mr. Powell. "The reason we have seen any movement on the Iraqi side in the last three weeks is because of the pressure that's been put upon them. They're not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, or because suddenly they realize they had to come clean. It's pressure. And one resolution keeps that pressure on."

France, with some support from other council members, has been holding out for a two-step process, with an initial resolution calling for new inspections, and another if necessary threatening Iraq with the use of force if it is not forthcoming.

Mr. Powell expressed understanding for the French viewpoint and said he remained confident council members will be able to resolve any differences that exist.

"We have to listen to all those points of view and find a way to go forward," he said. "But I am optimistic as this week has gone by because of the kind of presentations that were made by these two gentlemen to the Security Council, and an understanding on the part of the Security Council that if the inspectors are going to go back in, they have to go back in without any restrictions on what they're able to do, and they're has to be pressure maintained on the Iraqi regime through the likelihood of action taken if they try to frustrate this inspection regime the way they have other inspection regimes in the past."

White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice joined Mr. Powell at the State Department meeting.

Mr. Blix was accompanied by Mohamed El Baradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who said it is important that IAEA teams go back to Iraq quickly to make sure that Saddam Hussein has not revived his nuclear program in the four years since inspections were last conducted.

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