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US: Iraqi Report 'Fails Totally' to Account for Weapons - 2002-12-19

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a stern warning to Iraq, says its weapons declaration "fails totally" to move in the direction of a peaceful resolution of the crisis over its holdings of banned weapons of mass destruction. Speaking after U.N. inspection chief Hans Blix's report to the Security Council, Mr. Powell called for stepped-up inspection efforts focussing on interviews of key figures in Iraq's weapons programs.

In press appearance here, Mr. Powell made clear there would be no immediate use of force against Iraq. But he said its weapons report which he termed "a catalog of recycled information and flagrant omissions," constitutes another material breach of U.N. resolutions, and has brought Iraq "closer to the day" when it will have to face the consequences for its non-compliance.

"From what we heard from Dr. Blix this morning, and from what I heard from other members of the Council who have spoken, there is no question that Iraq continues its pattern of non-cooperation, its pattern of deception, its pattern of dissembling, its pattern of lying," he said. "And if that is going to be the way they continue through the weeks ahead, then we're not going find a peaceful solution to this problem."

Mr. Powell said Saddam Hussein's apparent intention with the report was to sow confusion, buy time, and hope the world would lose interest, but he said the game, this time, is not working.

He said there is no calendar deadline for compliance, but that there is a "practical limit" to how much longer "one can go down the road of non-cooperation" and how much time U.N. inspectors can be given to do their work.

"It is Iraq's obligation to cooperate. And they are the ones who are supposed to be coming forward under this resolution to demonstrate to the international community what they have done in the past, what they might still be holding, and to come clean," he said. "And what we have seen in this declaration is they still have not made a decision to come clean."

Mr. Powell said the course of action for the coming weeks is clear and should include the intensification of inspection efforts in Iraq. He said there should be a high priority to identifying and interviewing leading figures in Iraqi weapons programs, who, if necessary, would be evacuated from the country with their families to prevent official intimidation or worse.

"There will be names that will be made available. And let us remember this: under the resolution, when those names are presented to the Iraqi government, they are required to provide these individuals for interview, and for interview in a safe place, and for their families to be in a safe place, where they will not be in danger of losing their lives for telling the truth," he said.

Mr. Powell said despite its voluminous size, the Iraq report fails to account even for nerve gas and other chemical weapons Iraq admitted having before the previous round of U.N. inspections ended in 1998.

Security Council resolution 1441, approved November 8, warns Iraq of "serious consequences," implicitly including the possible use of force, in the event of its non-compliance.

The Washington Post reported Thursday President Bush has set the last week in January as a "make-or-break point" for decisions on whether or not to seek military action.