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Powell Dismisses Idea of More Inspectors in Iraq - 2003-02-09

Secretary of State Colin Powell says a proposal by Germany and France that would reportedly triple the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq deals with the "wrong issues" and would serve only as a "diversion." Secretary Powell told interviewers he had not seen the entire proposal to triple the number of weapons inspectors, but he does not believe it is a solution to the issue of Iraq's weapons program.

In an interview on the television program Fox News Sunday, Mr. Powell said the proposal by France and Germany misses the point.

"I do not think the next step should be, let us send in more inspectors to be stiffed [misled] by the Iraqis," Mr. Powell said.

Secretary Powell noted that France and Germany supported the U.N. Security Council resolution giving Iraq one last chance to prove it has dismantled its banned weapons, or face possible military action. But according to Mr. Powell, the Iraqis are still failing to cooperate.

Mr. Powell said the next major step is for the United Nations to determine whether the "serious consequences" threatened in the resolution are appropriate.

"I hope that the United Nations will not slip into irrelevance by failing to step up to its responsibilities at this moment in history," he commented.

Secretary Powell was also critical of Belgium, France and Germany, which oppose planning by the NATO alliance for the defense of Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq.

Mr. Powell said NATO's defense of Turkey should be automatic.

"For three NATO nations to say, with respect to a fourth NATO nation, 'We will not even consider that at this time because of a dispute we are having, really within the United Nations Security Council, about what follows next,' I think is inexcusable on the part of those countries," he explained.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, top U.N. weapons inspectors were given weapons documents that they termed "useful" and "substantial." The inspectors are scheduled to make another report to the Security Council this week.