U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is rejecting the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq without a tough new Security Council resolution demanding unimpeded access and stating consequences for non-compliance. His comments followed an agreement in Vienna between chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix and Iraqi officials that could lead to the return of U.N. teams within two weeks.
Mr. Powell avoided direct criticism of Mr. Blix, who is due to brief the Security Council on the Vienna talks on Thursday. But in a hastily-called news conference here, he made clear that the return on inspectors should be held up until the Security Council can approve a new resolution ensuring that Iraq gives up its weapons of mass destruction or faces the prospect of military action. "We will not be satisfied with Iraqi half-truths or Iraqi compromises, or Iraqi efforts to get us back into the same swamp that they took the United Nations into back in 1998," he said. "Pressure works. We're going to keep it up. We're going to work with our partners in the Security Council to put in place a new resolution, a new resolution that also has to have associated with it consequences for failure on the part of the Iraqis to act and to respond to the requirements of the international community."
The Bush administration is working with Britain in the U.N. Security Council for a new resolution re-writing old inspection rules that, among other things, exempted so-called "presidential sites" in Iraq from inspections.
A U.S. draft being informally circulated among council members sets deadlines for Iraqi acceptance of unlimited inspections, and warns Baghdad that "all necessary means" would be employed by the international community in the face of renewed defiance of the Security Council.
Under questioning here, Mr. Powell claimed to be making some headway in the negotiations, which have included multiple telephone appeals by the Secretary of State to his counterparts in Russia and France. Both those governments have veto power in the council and have been resisting the idea of a single resolution amounting to an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. "We have made some progress," said Colin Powell. "And we have heard some strong views coming back from some of our partners. And we will work all this out in the course of our negotiations. What I think everybody understands is that this is not something we can turn away from. Secondly the old regime did not work. The old inspection regime did not work. They tied it up in knots. And before we declare that everything is OK today because of two days worth of discussions on technical modalities, not one inspector has stepped foot in Iraq and not one thing has changed since 1998."
In Vienna, Mr. Blix said Iraq had given clarifications promising "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted" access by inspectors, except for eight presidential sites covered by a memorandum of understanding reached with the U.N. in 1998, the year the inspections broke off.
Secretary Powell said the U.N. inspections chief is "doing a fine job" but said he needs new "guidance and instructions" from the Security Council in the form of a new resolution.