Secretary of State Colin Powell has told the U.N. Security Council that Iraq has failed to disarm and there is "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Saddam Hussein is concealing weapons of mass destruction.
Secretary Powell addressed nations that are divided over whether to declare Iraq in material breach of U.N. resolutions, or give inspectors more time to look for banned weapons inside Iraq.
Mr. Powell presented tape recordings, satellite photos and statements from informants as evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and has repeatedly attempted to conceal them from U.N. inspectors.
Mr. Powell reminded Security Council members that they voted unanimously late last year for U.N. resolution 1441, which calls for Baghdad to disarm or face serious consequences.
"The issue before us is not how much time we are willing to give the inspectors to be frustrated by Iraqi obstruction. But how much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's non-compliance before, we as a Council, we as the United Nations, say enough, enough," he said.
Mr. Powell's testimony comes as the Bush Administration is trying to rally domestic and international support for action against Iraq. But despite the evidence presented Wednesday and the assertion that Iraq will continue to hide its weapons program from inspectors, some members of the Security Council, including France, Russia and China, say inspectors need to be given more time before military force is used.
In a recent report entitled "Iraq, What Next," the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues in favor of continued inspections, in part because it says the presence of inspectors helps keep the peace and keeps Iraq from any further weapons development.
Carnegie President Jessica Mathews says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ability to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is being held in check while inspectors are in the country.
"Does Iraq pose a threat while the inspections are underway? We think the evidence here is clear that the answer is no. Certainly, aggressive activities by Iraq outside the country would be impossible with the troops that now surround it. Inside the country the presence of inspectors able to go anywhere at anytime precludes any significant advancement in WMD activities while they are there," he said.
Joseph Cirincione is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and he says the current inspectors have not been given enough time to determine whether their mission will be a success or failure.
"The most important reason they should be given that time is because the risks of war are so high," he said. "We are talking about invading an Arab country with 200,000 Americans. Conducting a heavy bombardment of that country that will involve high casualties among the Iraqi people. The risks of that kind of military adventure are so extreme that it better really be your last resort and at this point it looks like we can accomplish most of our goals through inspections that should be given the time they need to get the job done."
In his speech to the United Nations, Mr. Powell accused Saddam Hussein of harboring terrorists with ties to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network. He expressed concern that Baghdad could arm terrorists wishing to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment argues that terrorist activity is likely to increase dramatically if war breaks out. "A massive U.S. presence occupying an Arab country is almost certain to provoke widespread animosity in the region," he said. "Many people in Iraq will feel liberated, will welcome the Americans. The problem is that many will not and those troops in the country will now become targets for terrorist sniping, terrorist bombing and there will be waves of new recruits into al-Qaida-like organizations. The U.S. homeland still is not prepared for the wave of terrorism that the war is likely to engender," he said.
The White House says President Bush has not yet decided on whether to attack Iraq, but says he remains determined the United States should lead a military coalition against the country if Baghdad fails to disarm.
It is not yet clear if the Security Council will debate a new resolution authorizing military force if members decide Iraq has no intention of destroying its weapons of mass destruction.