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Since 1st March, 1999
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US battles allies bent on averting war

Washington, Feb. 9 (Reuters): The US turned up the pressure on the UN Security Council today to swiftly decide Iraq’s fate, dismissing a Franco-German proposal to expand weapons inspections and arguing Saddam Hussein must face imminent military action for failing to disarm.

Appearing in today’s talk shows, US secretary of state Colin Powell sought to blunt the bid by the two European nations, backed by Russia, to avoid “serious consequences” — diplomatic code for war. It appeared the question of timing could come to a head on Friday in the Security Council when another key presentation is due by UN weapons inspectors.

US President George W. Bush, in West Virginia for talks with congressional Republicans, said the Security Council would have to make up its mind soon. “The United Nations gets to decide shortly whether or not it is going to be relevant in terms of keeping the peace, whether or not its words mean anything,” Bush said. “But one thing is certain — for the sake of peace and the sake of security, the United States and our friends and allies, we will disarm Saddam Hussein if he will not disarm himself.”

Germany said it would put the proposal for more inspectors backed by UN troops and greater aerial support before the Security Council on Friday, the same day top UN inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei present another report.

In their last report, they said Iraq had not cooperated fully with teams of UN inspectors. Today, after two days of talks in Baghdad, ElBaradei said the inspectors were seeing “the beginning of the change of heart on the part of Iraq” and that Baghdad had made some progress. Both Powell and US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said they had expected such a move on the part of Saddam.

“People are going to be very sceptical of anything that he does at this point, because an 11th-hour conversion has been his modus operandi before,” Rice said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Instead the US officials pressed their case for quick Security Council action, with Powell saying Friday’s meeting would be key. “At that point, the council is going to have to start to come together and make a judgement as to what next steps should be,” Powell said on the Fox News Sunday programme.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, he added, “Tripling the number of inspectors doesn’t deal with the issue. This idea of more inspectors, or no fly zones, or whatever else may be in this proposal that is being developed is a diversion, not a solution.”

Powell said the issue remained whether Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein has complied with UN resolution 1441 passed on November 8, 2002, that required Iraq to disarm or face “serious consequences”. “What France has to do and what I think Germany has to do... is read 1441 again,” Powell said.

“This lack of cooperation by Iraq and the false declaration, all the other actions that they have taken and not taken since the resolution was passed... all set the stage for the UN to go into session and find whether or not serious consequences are appropriate at this time.”

On ABC’s This Week, Powell said, “Everyone who voted for 1441, to include the French, understood that serious consequences meant the use of force.”

He also warned that the Franco-German effort first outlined by French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin after Powell’s presentation last week of purported Iraqi transgressions could result in the US pursuing military action without any further UN backing. “If the UN does not face up to its responsibilities as clearly laid out in resolution 1441, then it would be necessary for the United States to act with a willing coalition,” he said.

Russia, which like France opposed quick military action against Iraq and can veto any Security Council resolution authorising military force, said it backed the plan that included sending UN troops to Iraq to support the inspections for weapons.

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