United Nations, 5 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell is due to appear before the United Nations Security Council later today to present what U.S. officials say is previously undisclosed evidence showing that Iraq has illegal weapons programs and has been hiding them from UN inspectors. Powell, who is also expected to discuss alleged Iraqi links to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network, will be accompanied to the Security Council session by CIA Director George Tenet.
Ahead of Powell's presentation, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein denied in an interview broadcast on British television yesterday that Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction or links to Al-Qaeda. The Iraqi president accused the United States of wanting to seize Iraq's oil fields and exert control over the rest of the world.
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has urged Iraq to provide additional evidence without delay about its weapons programs. Referring to the buildup of U.S. military forces around Iraq, Blix warned Iraq that time is running out, saying it is "five minutes to midnight." Blix is due to visit Baghdad this weekend ahead of his next report to the Security Council on 14 February.
Meanwhile a report from Sydney says the upper house of parliament in Australia today passed a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister John Howard over his handling of the Iraq crisis.
The Senate voted 33-31 after an 11-hour debate to pass the motion, which included a condemnation of Australian involvement in a war in Iraq without a United Nations mandate. The vote will have no impact on the Australian government's decision to send 2,000 troops to the Persian Gulf to prepare for a possible war. And a similar motion was defeated today in the lower House of Representatives, where the conservative government holds a majority.
But leaders of opposition and minor parties in the upper house said this is the first time in its 102-year history that senators censured a serving prime minister with a vote of no confidence.