U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said weapons inspectors in Iraq are "getting up to full speed" in their search of Iraqi arms programs.
The Secretary General said U.N. inspectors are widening their search for weapons of mass destruction and must report to the Security Council before conclusions can be made about how next to deal with Iraq.
"I think the inspectors are just getting up to full speed," Mr. Annan continued. "They are now quite operational and able to fly around and get their work done and I think we should wait for the update that they will give to the Council on the 27th, and hear what further instructions the Council gives them."
Mr. Annan reiterated demands by chief U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaredei that Iraq take a "more proactive" role in its cooperation with the United Nations and "fill gaps" in reports on its weapons programs.
The inspectors, who have been in Iraq for more than six weeks, have been provided with new intelligence information. Earlier, President Bush told reporters that "time is running out" for Baghdad to disarm.
But Mr. Annan cited real progress in the effort to inspect the Iraqi arsenal. He said pressure by the United States, which is building up its military presence in the Middle East in preparation for a possible war with Iraq, helped gain the inspectors' return after a four-year hiatus.
"I think I would want to make a distinction between pressure and the threat of use of force and actual use of force when you cross that threshold," Mr.Annan said. "I think there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the pressure has been effective, that it has worked."
Mr. Annan said that he expects the Security Council to fulfill its obligations on Iraq and he warned of "serious consequences" should Saddam Hussein fail to comply with a U.N. resolution to disarm.
The Secretary General made his comments during an annual news conference with U.N. reporters. Mr. Annan said that while the United Nations is preparing its response to humanitarian needs should war break out in Iraq, he remains "optimistic and hopeful" that the international community will be able to disarm Iraq peacefully.