U.S. lawmakers Thursday urged Bush administration officials to allow more time for U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq before launching a possible war against that country.
A combative Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage clashed with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee including those from his own Republican party on the issue of arms inspections.
Mr. Armitage took issue with an appeal from Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican moderate, to allow inspectors more time up to a year to do their job in Iraq before resorting to war.
Senator Lincoln Chafee:"I think the American people are feeling, with the inspectors there, that there is a sense of security."
Richard Armitage:"Clearly, Senator we have a difference of opinion on this. My point of view on this is that the American people have waited 12 years and several months. If you're not going to get the cooperation, than another year only increases the danger."
Mr. Armitage appeared before the committee along with U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte to brief lawmakers on the U.N. inspectors' report released to the Security Council this week.
When Senator Chafee noted that parts of the report showed some Iraqi cooperation with inspectors, Ambassador Negroponte said chief weapons inspector Hans Blix found 'substantive cooperation to be sorely lacking.'
Mr. Chafee offered a terse response. "The decision to go to war then is splitting a hair here, it seems, over cooperation or lack of it," he said.
With a U.S. troop buildup continuing in the Gulf, Mr. Armitage emphasized the administration position that time is running out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm peacefully.
Mr. Armitage also said he did not believe a second U.N. resolution authorizing military action was needed if the United States decides force is necessary to disarm Iraq. But he said such a resolution would be desirable.