U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will join in a crucial meeting of the U.N. Security Council Friday at which chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will give an updated report on Iraqi compliance with disarmament demands.
Mr. Powell says it is already clear Iraq has failed the disarmament test posed by the Security Council, and aides to the Secretary say one reason for attending Friday's meeting will be to lobby against an expected move by France and Germany to expand and extend the mission of U.N. inspectors in Iraq.
Appearing Wednesday at a Congressional hearing, Mr. Powell said a failure by the council to force Iraq to comply with its November disarmament resolution would put its political credibility at grave risk. He said he will confront his French and German colleagues over their motives in seeking further delay.
"France and Germany are resisting. They believe that more inspections, more time - the question I'd put to them is why more inspectors? And how much more time? Or are you just delaying for the sake of delaying in order to get Saddam Hussein off the hook, and no disarmament? That's the challenge that I will put to them again this Friday, and next week as debate continues on this issue," he said.
France has been circulating a proposal at the United Nations to double, and eventually triple, the number of U.N. inspectors in Iraq and to make the inspections process essentially open-ended.
In his testimony, Mr. Powell said there can be no dispute about Iraq's failure to cooperate with the November 8 resolution and said the Security Council is nearing a "moment of truth." He reiterated the United States' readiness to use force if necessary to get Iraq to disarm.
"I don't like war. I've been in war. I've sent men into war. I've seen friends die in war. Nobody wants war, but sometimes it's necessary when you need it to maintain international order," he said. "And the United States is prepared to lead a coalition, either under U.N. auspices, or if the U.N. will not act and demonstrates its irrelevance, then the United States is prepared with a coalition of the willing, to act," he said.
France, Germany and Russia, the key holdouts in the Security Council against an early use of force against Iraq, are also expected to send their foreign ministers to Friday's meeting. It will be Mr. Powell's second appearance there in as many weeks after giving the council a multi-media briefing on Iraqi weapons violations February 5.