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Bush: Iraqi Declaration 'Was Not Encouraging' - 2002-12-20

President Bush says Iraq's report to the United Nations on its weapons programs shows that Saddam Hussein is not serious about disarming.

President Bush says Iraq's weapons declaration "was not encouraging."

"We expected him to show that he would disarm, and as the secretary of state said, it is a long way from there," emphasized Mr. Bush.

Secretary of State Colin Powell Thursday outlined U.S. concerns about the report including unanswered questions about Iraqi biological weapons and ballistic missiles.

He said there would be no immediate use of force against Iraq as the United States wants to continue with stepped-up inspections, including interviews with key figures in Iraq's weapons programs.

If the Security Council as a whole decides that Iraq is violating its resolution, the 15-member group will begin discussing possible consequences. If Mr. Bush is not satisfied with those consequences, he said he will lead his own coalition to disarm Iraq by force.

"We are serious about keeping the peace," said Mr. Bush. "We are serious about working with our friends in the United Nations so that this body ably led by Kofi Annan has got relevance as we go into the 21st century. Yesterday was a disappointing day for those who long for peace."

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix Thursday said he needs more cooperation from Iraqi authorities in terms of uncovering evidence and he is not convinced by Iraq's insistence that it has no weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq's ruling party newspaper Friday challenged President Bush to substantiate his claims by giving U.N. weapons inspectors evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. An editorial said President Bush is trying to focus attention on Iraq to distract from Washington's failure to capture leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group.

Mr. Blix agrees there are omissions in Iraq's report but says that if the United States and Britain have knowledge of where Iraq is storing its weapons, that information should be handed over to U.N. inspectors.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday the Bush Administration is giving inspectors "everything it can without compromising intelligence sources."