Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday he's hopeful of an early end to the deadlock in NATO over military support to Turkey in the event of war with Iraq. He also told senators the U.N. Security Council is approaching a "moment of truth" over Iraq's failure to account for weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Powell made clear his irritation that the NATO allies France, Germany and Belgium were using their effective veto power in the alliance to register their disagreement with the Bush administration's tough line on Iraqi weapons inspections.
But appearing before the Senate Budget Committee he said Turkey's request for NATO help is "perfectly reasonable," and said he hoped for early end to the impasse that has shaken allied solidarity.
"I think this is the time for the alliance to say to a fellow alliance member: we agree with you, and if you are concerned we are concerned," he said. "That's what alliances are all about. And I hope NATO will be doing the right thing with respect to Turkey within the next 24 hours."
Mr. Powell said he hopes "intense diplomacy" by the United States will persuade the three holdouts that this is the time to "stand by a fellow NATO member who has asked for help."
He said failure to respond would be "unfortunate," but that help for Ankara would still be forthcoming from the United States and other supporters in the alliance.
The Secretary of State also said the U.N. Security Council nearing the point where it can "no longer look away" from Iraq's failure to fully comply with last November's resolution that ostensibly gave it one last chance to disarm.
He said Iraq's cooperation, even in the estimation of U.N. inspectors, has only been "passive" and that the council will soon have consider the "serious consequences" threatened in its resolution.
"Reasonable people can argue and debate over this issue," he said. "But it is clear that a moment of truth is coming with respect to Iraq and with respect to the Security Council as to whether it will meet its responsibilities. This is not just an academic exercise or the United States being in a fit of pique. We're talking about real weapons."
Mr. Powell said the Bush administration is "anxiously awaiting" Friday's report to the Security Council by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who has returned from a weekend mission to Iraq.
Mr. Powell was generally well-received by the committee, though Democrat Ernest Hollings argued that Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to U.S. security and that the Bush administration is putting its international alliances in jeopardy with its tough approach to Iraq.