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Chief UN Weapons Inspector Meets Powell Friday - 2002-10-03

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix meets Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday in Washington to brief him on his agreement with Iraq earlier this week on the return of inspectors to that country. The Bush administration reaffirmed Thursday it does not want inspectors to go back without a tougher new mandate from the Security Council.

U.S. officials were leery of the deal concluded by Mr. Blix Tuesday in Vienna in that it was based on existing 1998 rules limiting inspectors' rights to visit so-called "presidential sites" in Iraq.

But in advance of his trip to Washington, the U.N. inspections chief conceded it would be "awkward" for inspectors to return now, while the Security Council considers tougher inspection rules.

In a speech Thursday to a U.S.-Russian business group, Secretary Powell said the council "must" come up with a new resolution for unfettered inspections, if the U.N. body is to continue to have political credibility.

He also suggested the United States might act on its own if the Security Council fails to get Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

"I am optimistic that we will find a way forward in the Security Council. We must find a way forward if the Security Council will retain its relevance," he said. "There can be no doubt about the determination of the United States, and I believe all nations in the world to include Russia, to disarm Iraq. We can no longer turn away from this danger. We have to disarm Iraq. And the president is quite willing to do whatever is necessary to bring that about."

Mr. Powell continued telephone diplomacy with calls Thursday to his counterparts from France and Russia, whose governments both wield Security Council veto power, and have been resisting U.S. pressure for a single new resolution warning Iraq of consequences if it fails to disarm.

Russia has signaled its support for the approach being pressed by France for two resolutions, an initial one setting out U.N. disarmament demands, and a second if necessary, detailing the consequences.

While Mr. Powell continued contacts with Security Council members, his deputy Richard Armitage held talks here with the second-ranking Israeli defense official, General Amos Yaron.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the principal topic was Iraq, though he declined comment on whether it would include discussion of what Israel would do in the case it was attacked by Iraq in retaliation for U.S. military action against Baghdad.

Mr. Boucher said that since the administration has made no decision on the use of force against Iraq, it would be premature to discuss any consequences.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said it would not hold back in the face of an Iraqi attack, as Israel did during the 1991 Gulf War, when it was hit by 39 Scud missiles.