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Security Council  Ponders Whether to Give UN Inspectors More Time - 2003-01-28

The United Nations Security Council holds closed door consultations Wednesday on the next steps in the arms inspection process in Iraq. The discussion is on whether inspectors should be given more time to do their job, despite growing pressure from the United States. The talks come two days after the chief U.N. weapons inspector said Iraq has failed to account for a range of weapons programs.

The Security Council remains split between members who believe weapons inspectors should be given more time, and Britain and the United States which say time is running out for Iraq to show full cooperation with weapons teams.

"How long is enough, how much time is enough for Iraq to come into compliance?" asked U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte.

That issue is what council members are now considering, given a report by Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix which accuses Baghdad of failing to comply with U.N. demands that it fully disarm. Iraq denies having weapons of mass destruction. But inspectors say many items including missiles and tons of agents such as nerve gas and anthrax remain unaccounted for.

Even so, the Blix report appears to have done little to change the minds of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Unlike the United States and Britain, France, China and Russia all want the inspections to continue and each has the power to veto any new U.N. resolution that would authorize force against Iraq for failing to fully disarm.

When they meet behind closed doors Wednesday, council members are expected to seek more information from inspectors about their findings even as the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf continues in preparation for possible war. And, U.S. officials say Secretary of State Colin Powell is considering another trip to New York next week to provide Security Council members with classified information which they say would further show Iraq to be defying the will of the United Nations.