Secretary of State Colin Powell says Iraq is working with great vigor to acquire weapons of mass destruction and it's time for the Bush administration to make the case to the world that President Saddam Hussein's alleged efforts must be stopped, even if that means taking military action.
The secretary of state made the comments after meetings with world leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa Wednesday at the end of the Earth Summit.
Secretary of State Powell spent much of his day here answering questions about U.S. strategy toward Iraq, telling reporters that all the world leaders he spoke to firmly agree with the United States that something has to be done.
"We were focusing on weapons of mass destruction, the threat that they present to the civilized world and what was the civilized world in the form of the United Nations and the rest of the international community going to do about it," he said.
Iraq denies it still has stocks of weapons that it agreed to destroy at the end of the Gulf War 11 years ago. Bush administration officials appear divided on whether to send U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq, with Vice President Dick Cheney dismissing the idea, recalling that in the past, U.N. inspectors were not allowed to look for weapons where ever they wanted.
While he supports the idea of allowing inspectors to return, Secretary Powell says the United States plans in the coming days to begin presenting the world with what he calls the indisputable evidence that Iraq is rearming and that it must be stopped.
"The intelligence case is clear that they have weapons of mass destruction of one kind or another and they are trying to develop more and develop those that they do not yet have an operational capability for," he said. "That intention is clear and I think when the intelligence information is presented, everybody can see that they have not abandoned this and they are continuing to pursue it with even greater vigor."
The White House has said all options regarding Iraq remain on the table, including military force, something key U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East oppose, but something Secretary Powell believes will change once Washington lays out its case in full. But at his final news conference here before leaving Johannesburg, he said the United States reserves the right to act alone against Iraq if it has to.