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International Debate on Attacking Iraq

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan is urging the United States not to take military action against Iraq, without the approval of the U.N. Security Council. He spoke Wednesday, one day before President Bush is to discuss U.S. policy on Iraq in an address to the U.N. General Assembly. VOA TV’s Deborah Block has more.

U.N. Secretary General Annan says unilateral action against Iraq could have unexpected consequences and an unknown impact on The Middle East. He says there are still many questions that need to be discussed in the international community.

“What sort of Iraq do we wake up to after the bombing? And what happens in the region?”

The U.N. Secretary General says he has been in touch with the Iraqi leadership. He says he is aware of comments by French President Jacque Chirac who is proposing a plan for action by the Security Council. It includes giving Baghdad three weeks to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq, without any pre-conditions or restrictions. Then, if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate, the Security Council should decide whether to use military force. President George Bush continues to press for military strikes against Saddam Hussein whom he accuses of developing weapons of mass destruction.

“We have no choice but to confront the threats head on, while we preserve the freedom and openness of our societies.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is backing President Bush, reiterated his call for pre-emptive action against Iraq.

“If we do not deal with the threat of this international outlaw, and his barbaric regime, it may not erupt and engulf us this month or next, perhaps not even this year or next, but it will at some point.”

As the debate continues over whether Iraq has amassed weapons of mass destruction, a leading British research institution says Iraq does not have nuclear arms. But a report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies says Iraq could build a nuclear bomb within months, if it obtains radioactive material from abroad since it lacks the ability to make its own nuclear material. John Chipman is head of the institute.

“Our net assessment of the current situation in that Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons. It would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities.”

The report says once Iraq builds a nuclear device, it would probably take less than one year to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.