Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and his counterpart from the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei are scheduled to deliver a crucial report to the U.N. Security Council Friday on the search for banned Iraqi weapons.
Mr. Blix' and Mr. ElBaradei's report to the Security Council comes just days after their trip to Baghdad and follows a detailed presentation on Iraq's weapons program last week by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
But after three consecutive weekly special sessions and daily diplomatic efforts, the Security Council remains divided on whether to continue inspections or authorize military force to disarm Iraq.
At least 10 foreign ministers are expected to attend the closely watched briefing, which could launch a fierce debate in the council on how to proceed next.
The United States, and its staunchest ally on the council, Britain, have already concluded that Iraq is in material breach of a U.N. resolution. They call for a second Security Council resolution authorizing military action, which could be presented next week.
However, the majority of the council continues to favor allowing inspections for weapons of mass destruction to continue.
A panel of experts convened by UNMOVIC, the U.N.'s monitoring organization carrying out inspections for biological and chemical weapons, has concluded that Iraqi long-range missiles violate the U.N.'s 150 kilometer limit.
France, the most vocal opponent of military action on the council, says the discovery of the missiles, first revealed in Iraq's December declaration, proves inspections are working. French ambassador to the U.N. Jean-Marc de la Sabliere.
"This shows that the inspections and the system are giving results. If through the inspections you have result as this one and you have the arms destroyed through the inspection, then the job is done," he said.
France has proposed tripling the number of inspectors in Iraq, a plan supported by Germany, which holds the current rotating presidency of the Security Council. France says a new resolution to expand the inspections is unnecessary.
In addition to France, China and Russian, also permanent members on the Security Council with veto-power, have said they too favor the continuation of inspections.
While Moscow has not taken a position on military action against Iraq, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Sergey Lavrov, says he believes the Security Council should continue the inspection process.
"They are doing their job. They're not encountering difficulties in access anywhere," he said. "They are getting more cooperation from Iraq and we have not seen any proof of the alegations that Iraq is a threat and that Iraq continues to produce WMD."
After their recent trip to Baghdad, chief inspectors, Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei, received unconditional approval from the Iraqi government on the use of U-2 surveillance planes.
In the past, Mr. Blix has said that he could get the inspection job done without more inspectors, if Iraq changes its attitude and cooperates actively.
Mr. ElBaradei said he believes that only 100 percent cooperation by Baghdad will prevent the United States from launching a military attack.