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Powell  (HOLD for audio) - 2003-01-23

Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned Thursday that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake in upcoming decisions on Iraq. Mr. Powell also says the United States would not have to go it alone, if it undertakes military action against Iraq without U.N. approval.

Administration officials have made no effort to conceal their frustration over the reluctance of some U.S. allies, including France and Germany, to acknowledge what they say is already a clear-cut case that Iraq has not fully cooperated with the inspectors.

At a joint news conference with Mr. Straw, Secretary of State Powell described Iraq's cooperation with the inspectors as "flawed, incomplete and inadequate," and he warned that the credibility of the United Nations will be at stake in the debate that will follow next Monday's inspectors' report to the Security Council.

"For the international community now to say never mind, or walk away from this problem, or ignore it, or allow it to be strung out indefinitely with no end, I think would be a defeat for the international community, and a serious defeat for the United Nations process," he said.

Mr. Straw noted that France, as a Security Council member, and Germany through a European Union resolution, specifically endorsed the language of last November's U.N. resolution warning Iraq of "serious consequences" if it failed to comply. He said there would be consequences for the entire international community if, as he put it, "we cannot follow through with the resolve shown" in Resolution 14-41.

"What's at stake is the authority of the whole U.N," Mr. Straw said. "Because it was the U.N. which backed the military action that stopped the gratuitous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the U.N. which put in the weapons inspectors, the U.N. which had to very patiently put up with four years of monumental lying and deceit from Saddam Hussein saying they had nothing at all, the U.N. which had to suffer the humiliation of having those inspectors effectively kicked out, and then four years of limbo. So it is the authority of the U.N. as an international order that is at stake, which is why we have to follow-through."

Mr. Straw said Britain "would prefer" a second resolution authorizing military action against Iraq if it came to that, while Secretary Powell said it was "an open question" whether the United States would seek such specific authority.

Mr. Powell also said the Bush administration is not worried that the United States would have to go it alone if it decided on the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein.

"I think that the case is clear. I think that as we move forward if it can't be solved peacefully, and if the U.N. should fail to act, and I hope that is not the case, then the United States reserves the right to do what it thinks is appropriate to defend its interests, the interests of its friends, and to protect the world," he said. "And I'm quite confident that if it comes to that, we'll be joined by many nations. Many nations have already expressed a willingness to serve in a coalition of the willing."

Mr. Powell said the U.S. and British force deployments in the Gulf region are being used to support diplomacy, and that the limited degree of support Iraq has shown for the inspections process can be attributed to the military pressure.