United Nation, 6 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday shared intelligence with UN Security Council members which he says shows "undeniably" that Iraq is violating its disarmament obligations.
Powell presented satellite imagery and communications between Iraqi officials to show what he called an elaborate system to deceive inspectors. He declared Iraq in "material breach" of Security Council Resolution 1441 and must now face the "serious consequences" threatened in the measure. "[The UN Security Council] places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows Iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately," he said.
But key council members China, Russia, and France called for continuing efforts to find a political settlement to the Iraq crisis. Foreign ministers from these states said inspectors should be allowed to work longer under the strong backing of the council.
In an hour-long report, Powell cited evidence of an Iraqi chemical munitions plant and mobile biological-weapons laboratories. Iraq's ability to use biological weapons, he said, were especially troubling. "There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more and he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction," he said.
Powell said a pattern of illegal imports shows Iraq is trying to develop nuclear weapons. And Iraq, he said, is developing long-range ballistic missiles, including two systems cited last week by chief UN inspector Hans Blix.
Powell also detailed U.S. allegations that Baghdad is working together with Al-Qaeda operatives, including Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who is accused of ordering the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan last year.
He said Iraq has revived a sophisticated system to deceive the inspectors and follow their activities. "We wrote [Resolution] 1441 to give Iraq one last chance. Iraq is not so far taking that one last chance. We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility to the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw gave the strongest initial support of council members to Powell's report. Like Powell, Straw said Iraq was clearly violating its responsibility to cooperate actively with inspectors and now was in material breach of its obligations.
"Instead of open admissions and transparency [from Iraqi officials], we have a charade where a veneer of superficial cooperation masks willful concealment, the extent of which has been devastatingly revealed this morning by Secretary Powell," Straw said.
Powell held a series of bilateral meetings with council representatives yesterday but it was not immediately apparent most states would support military action against Iraq. The Russian and French foreign ministers -- Igor Ivanov and Dominique de Villepin -- both stressed there was still time for a political settlement.
But they said the Powell report would be studied closely by government experts. The United States has been mounting a buildup of forces in the Persian Gulf area. It has repeatedly said it was preparing to lead a coalition of countries to disarm Iraq in the event the Security Council is not prepared to act.