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U.S.: Powell Heads For Davos To Drum Up Support On Iraq

Washington, 25 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell travels to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this weekend to drum up support for the U.S. position on the Iraqi crisis. Powell is due to arrive in Davos today, where he is expected to hold bilateral meetings with world policymakers before addressing the forum tomorrow.

Powell told reporters during a stopover in Zurich today that the United States is counting on support from "at least a dozen" countries if it decides to use military force against Iraq without a new UN resolution. He did not name those countries.

On 27 January, the UN Security Council will hear a report from UN weapons inspectors on Iraq's compliance with UN demands to disarm. A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said inspectors planned to say in their report that Iraqi cooperation has been satisfactory but needs to be better.

As part of the inspection process, UN arms experts have asked Iraqi scientists to take part in private interviews about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq said it had received requests to interview three scientists today, but did not say whether they had accepted. Iraqi authorities had previously said scientists refused to be interviewed without the presence of Iraqi officials.

The White House yesterday said Iraq's alleged refusal to allow private interviews with scientists was "unacceptable".

In other news, a UN spokesman said a man carrying knives was taken into custody by Iraqi authorities today after he tried to enter a building housing UN weapons inspectors in Baghdad.

Spokesman Hiro Ueki said the man managed to enter the UN compound on the outskirts of Baghdad through a side entrance, into a parking lot, before being apprehended by Iraqi and UN security guards. The spokesman had no further details.

In a separate incident shortly afterwards, a young man tried to stop a convoy of UN vehicles as the inspectors were leaving the compound.

Spokesman Ueki said he still had little information about the second incident. It was not clear whether the two incidents were related.