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France, Russia and China Want  Inspections in Iraq to Continue - 2003-02-05

U.N. Security Council members France, Russia and China are calling for a strengthened weapons inspection process. The comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of evidence he says proves Iraq has deceived U.N. weapons inspectors.

Security Council members France, Russia and China - all with veto power in the Council - still want to continue the inspection process, despite Mr. Powell's evidence which he says shows a pattern of Iraqi deception of the inspectors.

France, which has been the most vocal opponent of war against Iraq, said it has not ruled out military action. However, Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin told the Council that first, the number of inspectors should be doubled or tripled and regional inspection offices in Iraq increased. He also proposed establishing a new, specialized body to keep sites already inspected under surveillance.

"We must move on to a new stage and further strengthen the inspections given the choice between military intervention and an inspection team that is inadequate because of a failure to cooperate by Iraq's part, we must choose decisive reinforcement of the means of inspection," Mr. Villepin said.

Russia and China agree. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the information, presented by Mr. Powell must be "seriously analyzed" by international experts and assessed by inspectors on the ground, who should be allowed to continue their job.

"The main point is that our efforts continue to be geared to doing everything possible to facilitate the inspection process, which has proven its effectiveness and makes it possible to implement the decision of the Security Council through peaceful means," Mr. Ivanov said.

Since chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei presented a critical report last week on shortfalls in Iraqi cooperation, the international community has waited for the intelligence information provided by Mr. Powell, to see if it would sway the divided Council.

Of the 15-members, a handful had backed the U.S. position that Iraq is already in material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441, which threatens Iraq with "serious consequences" for failing to disarm.

Britain, which supports the United States view, told the council, through Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, that Secretary of State Powell presented an "authoritative and powerful case against the Iraqi regime."

"Saddam is defying every one of us, every nation here represented. He questions our resolve and is gambling that we will lose our nerve rather than enforcing our will," Mr. Straw said.

He said that if Iraq continues to fail to cooperate with inspectors, the Council must quote "meet the responsibility."