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World Prepares for Report on Iraqi Weapons Inspections - 2003-01-22

On January 27th, the United Nations Security Council is expected to receive a progress report on the weapons inspection process in Iraq. And already two key members of the Security Council have expressed strong opposition to launching military action against Iraq. VOA-TV’S Melinda Smith has an update on the situation in Iraq.

As polls show public support for a war against Iraq is declining in the United States, anti-war demonstrations are growing in Baghdad. Wednesday demonstrators waved guns in the air and chanted anti-American slogans.

In a news conference in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac declared that France and Germany were united in their opposition to war with Iraq.

“Germany and France have the same judgment on this crisis, and that is mostly based on two notions. The first is that any decision belongs to the United Nations Security Council and to it alone, speaking after having heard the report of the arms inspectors, in conformity with the resolutions it has adopted. And the second idea is that for us war is always an admission of failure and the worst of all solutions. Everything should be done to avoid it.”

Meanwhile, four empty chemical warheads were turned in to U.N. weapons inspectors during the weekend. Iraq says it’s ready to cooperate more actively with the U.N. team.

Monday Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s science advisor, Amir Al-Saadi, met with U.N. Chief Inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei in Baghdad. Mr. Al-Saadi announced a series of measures he says will facilitate the inspection process.

“After the findings of some empty 122 mm chemical munitions at the Ukhaydir store, the Iraqi side has appointed a team to undertake an investigation and comprehensive search to look for similar cases at all locations.”

Mr. Al-Saadi announced another major concession: the U.N. team will be allowed to interview Iraqi scientists privately and will have access to private sites.

But the Iraqi proposals failed to placate the Bush Administration in Washington. President George W. Bush has refused to back down on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. Tuesday Mr. Bush accused Saddam Hussein of using ‘old tricks’ to avoid compliance with a United Nations disarmament resolution.

“He wants to focus the attention of the world on inspectors. This is not about inspectors, this is about a disarmed Iraq. He has weapons of mass destruction, the world’s deadliest weapons, which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens, and our friends and allies.”

As the buildup of US troops in the Persian Gulf continues, Mr. Bush refuses to say when he will decide on possible military action.

Also this week in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to reporters about the U.S. demand for Iraqi disarmament

“One way or another Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. And we will not be distracted by games, we will not be distracted by suddenly finding a few missiles here, or suggesting a level of cooperation tomorrow that didn’t exist yesterday.”

In the meantime, U.N. Weapons Inspectors have stepped up their search for possible biological, chemical and nuclear weapons by making unannounced visits to factories that manufacture cement, chemicals and explosives.