United Nations, 5 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell today 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 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," Powell said.
Powell said a pattern of illegal imports shows Iraq is trying to develop nuclear weapons. And Iraq, he says, 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," he said.
Iraqi officials rejected Powell's presentation to the council. Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Muhammad al-Duri, said Powell's claims that Iraq is violating UN resolutions and harboring terrorists are "utterly unrelated to the truth." He said Iraq "will provide detailed and technical responses to the allegations."
Al-Duri also rejected Powell's claim that Iraq has links with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. He said Powell's "clear goal" was "to sell the idea of war and aggression."
In Baghdad, Iraqi presidential adviser Lieutenant General Amir al-Saadi said Powell's presentation was a "typical American show."
"This was a typical American show, complete with stunts and special effects," he said. He added that UN weapons inspectors had visited suspected sites and not found proof of illegal weapons in Iraq.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated after Powell's presentation to the council that war with Iraq is still not inevitable. Annan, who was present at the presentation, said "U.S. officials have said all along that they do not believe that war is inevitable, provided that Iraq complies." The UN secretary-general said, "even at this stage, they are not saying peace is out."
Russia, China, and France are calling for more time for UN weapons inspectors' work in Iraq. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Powell's presentation indicates that inspections in Iraq must continue, and said Iraq must provide answers to the questions raised.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan also called for more time for inspections. Tang said the Security Council is obligated to avoid war as long as there is the "slightest hope" of a political settlement to the Iraq crisis.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the inspections regime must be strengthened and the use of force must be used only as a last resort. He said Powell's report deserves closer analysis.
But British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reiterated Powell's statements that Iraq is in "further material breach" of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Straw said time is running out for Iraq and if non-cooperation continues, the Council must meet its responsibilities.
Russia, China, France, and Britain -- along with the United States -- are permanent members on the UN Security Council and therefore have veto power over any council resolution.
Additionally, 10 Eastern European countries announced strong support for America's stance on Iraq, saying they are prepared to contribute to an international coalition to disarm Baghdad it it continues to fail to comply with UN arms inspectors.
The Vilnius 10 -- which includes Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- issued their joint statement at the UN today following Powell's presentation.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi conveyed the spirit of the statement, which said Powell had presented compelling evidence of Iraq's arms programs. "In the event, in the near future, the inspectors don't report to the council that Iraq has changed its attitude with regard to its obligations, the Security Council will have to take the appropriate action for the implementation of the relevant resolutions adopted since 1990," Pasi said.
The joint statement -- which did not mention the need for a second UN resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraq -- said the trans-Atlantic community "must stand together to face the threat" of Iraq.
Last week, 12 European countries -- including European Union members Spain, Italy, Britain, and Denmark -- jointly expressed support for the U.S. and urged the trans-Atlantic community not to be split by the issue of Iraq.