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US to Give Its Response Thursday to Iraq's Weapons Declaration - 2002-12-19

The United States later Thursday gives its formal response to Iraq's weapons declaration to the U.N. Security Council. Bush administration officials are dismissing Iraq's claims that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction, but they are also signaling there will be no unilateral U.S. action against Baghdad for the time being.

The U.S. position will be outlined by Secretary of State Colin Powell in a statement here after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix gives his first assessment of Iraq's massive weapons report to the Security Council in New York.

In a likely preview of the message, Mr. Powell said Wednesday the Bush administration is not encouraged that Iraq intends to cooperate with disarmament demands, but that Washington intends to work, in the coming weeks, within the U.N. in deciding how to respond.

"We are not encouraged that they have gotten the message, or will cooperate based on what we have seen so far in the declaration. But we will stay within the U.N. process," he said. "The president made it clear he wanted to work with the U.N. and the international community. And we will share our analysis of the declaration with other members of the council, and discuss how to move forward in the weeks ahead."

Mr. Powell said the U.S. analysis thus far indicates "troublesome" gaps and omissions in the Iraqi declaration, and said other permanent Security Council member states have told him they also see "deficiencies."

The secretary spoke at the close of a ministerial-level U.S.-European Union dialogue that included a heavy focus on Iraq.

Representing the EU presidency, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller also stressed the importance of Iraq disarming, while making clear Europe's preference for dealing with the situation within the U.N. framework.

"We are both working to make Iraq respect the United Nations Security Council," he said. "Iraq has to cooperate with the weapons inspectors, open everything for them, and respect the decisions of the Security Council. And for us, its very important that further decisions are made through the Security Council. And we are working with the United States to make Iraq respect the world community."

Under the resolution approved unanimously last month by the Security Council, Iraq was given a last chance to disarm or face "serious consequences" implicitly including possible military action.

President Bush has said United States is ready to lead a "coalition of the willing" to disarm Iraq if it continued to defy U.N. resolutions. His spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday that threat "is not a bluff" even though the administration is promising, for now, to work the issue through the United Nations.

Mr. Bush is expected to make his first statement on the Iraqi declaration on Friday.