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Powell Iraq Report Gets Mixed Reactions From World Leaders

Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation Wednesday to the United Nations underscored the U.S. position that Saddam Hussein must disarm immediately and that he is deceiving United Nations inspectors. Many governments say the evidence has deepened suspicions about Iraqi actions, but for others it is still not enough to justify a war against Iraq.

Iraq's reaction to Mr. Powell's presentation was predictable. Officials in Baghdad have dismissed Mr. Powell's presentation as nothing more than a pretext for waging war.

Iraq's liaison to the U.N. weapons inspectors, Amer al-Saadi called the evidence of hidden weapons programs unconvincing.

"This was a typical American show complete with stunts and special effects," he said. "What we heard... was for the general public and mainly the uninformed in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq," he said.

Not true, say a growing number of world leaders, who agree the American presentation shows a pattern of deception by Baghdad.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer put it this way, in an interview with Australian television. "Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the U.N. inspectors. It is perfectly obvious he is endeavoring to circumvent the work of the inspectors and to flout the Security Council resolutions," he said.

President Bush has warned he will use force with what he terms a 'willing' coalition, without U.N. approval, if necessary to eliminate the Iraqi threat.

But the day after Mr. Powell's presentation, the European Union remained divided over the timing of any use of force to disarm Iraq. Many still object to joining a U.S. led war that does not have United Nations backing. The transatlantic NATO alliance has delayed approval of a U.S. request for help.

Britain strongly backs the U.S. position that Iraq is in material breach of U.N. resolutions and must be forced to disarm now. So do a growing number of Central and Eastern European states.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose government holds the rotating EU presidency, expresses hope for a diplomatic solution. He says the burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein.

"We want a diplomatic solution. We can get it if there is full compliance," he said. "Full compliance means that he has to convince us. But otherwise there will be dire consequences."

France, which has a veto in the U.N. Security Council, reflects the view of those states that want to give more time for U.N. inspections, before considering the use of force. A day after Mr. Powell's presentation, French President Jacques Chirac says his position has not changed.

"It will be difficult for [President] Jacques Chirac to go against public opinion that is over 80 percent against the war, without U.N. backing," said Patrice deBeer, a political commentator who writes for the influential French daily Le Monde.

American University Professor Alan Lichtman says Mr. Powell's presentation at the U.N. Security Council probably did not alter international public opinion on that point.

"I think it will have less effect on international opinion, which has been pretty much against the U.S. position. I do not think this speech alone will cause a dramatic change in the views of the people of the world," he said.

Other analysts however foresee a subtle shift in public opinion, reflecting a feeling that war is inevitable.

In the Middle East, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters there are doubts about the credibility of Mr. Powell's statements. He said U.N. inspectors need more time to verify the information.

But that does not necessarily ease pressure on Iraq. Arab leaders are intensifying efforts to persuade Saddam Hussein he must cooperate more fully with U.N. inspectors in order to avert war.