Concluding two days of meetings in Baghdad Monday, the chief weapons inspectors for the United Nations expressed cautious optimism about Iraqi cooperation with inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction. They are due to deliver their findings to the UN Security Council on Friday. Meanwhile, as the United States continues to gear up for war with Iraq, key members of the Security Council are supporting a French-German plan to increase the number of inspectors and give them more time to do their work. Betty Van Etten has the details.
Winding up their visit in Baghdad, the two top UN weapons inspectors said they have made progress in determining if Iraq has destroyed its chemical and biological weapons.
HANS BLIX, CHIEF UN WEAPONS INSPECTOR
“I perceived a beginning of a more serious attitude of cooperation and substance, and I welcome that.”
Nevertheless, the inspectors said they did not get the drastic changes they were seeking.
MOHAMMED EL-BARADEI, DIRECTOR INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC AGENCY
“Something spectacular has to happen. A new environment. And I think that in the next days and weeks we’d like to see that.”
Iraq has turned over to the weapons inspectors some documents on anthrax, nerve agent and missile development, which are now being analyzed. It later agreed to allow surveillance over-flights by U-2 aircraft and said it would issue a law banning weapons of mass destruction. Both were key demands of the UN inspectors.
In Washington, the Bush administration continued to argue its case to disarm Iraq. U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher described Iraq’s concessions as tactical retreats, saying the latest pledges do not amount to full compliance with UN disarmament demands.
The tough U.S. stance against Saddam Hussein is supported by Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the new NATO members in Eastern Europe.
But key members of the UN Security Council are resisting U.S. pressure for military action. French President Jacques Chirac, while hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin, read a joint French-Russian-German communique supporting an increase in the number of inspectors in Iraq and giving them more time to do their work.
JACQUES CHIRAC, FRENCH PRESIDENT
“There is an alternative to war, we are sure of that. The use of force would constitute the last resort. Russia, Germany and France are determined to do everything they can to disarm Iraq by peaceful means."
In Beijing Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said her country endorses the French-German-Russian plan to disarm Iraq peacefully. Upon hearing of the proposal, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell dissented.
COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
“It's not more inspectors that we need, it's more cooperation, far more cooperation, from Saddam Hussein in this is what we need. And that's not what we've been getting. So it isn't the need for more inspectors, it's need for Saddam Hussein to come into compliance with the basic requirements of the UN Resolution 1441."
The members of the UN Security Council will have a chance to hash out their differences after reviewing the weapons inspectors’ latest report. It is due to be presented to them on Friday.