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Since 1st March, 1999
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PR perfect, proof imperfect
- Powell’s UN performance fails to convince experts

London, Feb. 5 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell laid out evidence today of Iraq’s alleged banned weapons and its links to international guerrilla networks.

The following are the reactions of some analysts to Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council:

l Barthelemy Courmont, Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris

Courmont, a specialist in nuclear issues and US policy, said about half-an-hour into Powell’s presentation:

“In public relations terms, this is very strong. He shows us proof right from the start which can be considered damning — there were photos he showed and the audio tapes. They have to be confirmed, of course, but I imagine they are quite believable. But there are points that remain quite vague. These are damning proofs for activities whose nature is not known.

“When he gets into the details, he makes very serious charges with names and people, but there is no proof. So it’s really a public relations manoeuvre that I personally find excellent, that is to say put some proof up front to give the impression you have proof for everything.

“I’m not really convinced, at least not so far. He hasn’t finished but for the moment there isn’t anything really new.

“Just because there are trucks around a site doesn’t mean they’re transporting warheads.

“He says it, but that’s an interpretation and not necessarily a certainty. I think what would be interesting, on the basis of these obviously significant elements, that the arms inspectors get these to pursue their searches.

“But one can’t attack on the basis of a presumption on the basis of some photographs. That would be dangerous.

l Pavel Felgenhauer, independent defence analyst, Moscow

“It was a rather impressive display and I believe the Russian authorities will be pleased with it because he referred specifically to al Qaida activity in Chechnya and attempts to poison Russians. The Russian media is sure to play this up.

“Some of the ideas presented would hardly stand up in a court — it is easy, for instance, to present recordings but hard to prove who is involved. And some of the evidence from so-called human sources was not very well documented. But it gave the right impression that Saddam Hussein is capable of producing weapons of mass destruction. On the al Qaida links with Iraq, sources say this is not so but the US is trying to say that this has happened very recently.”

l Tim Ripley, researcher Centre for Defence and International Studies, Lancaster University, Britain

“I think the most interesting thing is the al Qaida linkage The al Qaida linkage is quite new and something which people will put under a lot of scrutiny.

“The British government never claimed the guys arrested in London had any link to Iraq.

“He has not produced the photograph of that missile launcher. He has produced anecdotal stuff. As for the photograph of the missile, as yet we’ve not had that.”

l Kenneth Boutin, researcher, Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (Vertic), London

“One can dispute the evidence but it does suggest the programme is does seem to be a rather large amount of evidence.”

“From a Vertic perspective there is still considerable scope yet for inspections and this additional information may make these easier.”

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