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Since 1st March, 1999
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Impatient Bush says Iraq’s time running out

Washington/Baghdad, Jan. 14 (Reuters): US President George Bush said today he was sick and tired of Iraq’s deception over suspected weapons of mass destruction and time was running out for it to comply with UN demands to disarm.

He signalled growing impatience as UN inspections yield little evidence to support US charges that Iraq has chemical and biological arms and is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that he has disarmed. Time is running out on Saddam Hussein. He must disarm. I’m sick and tired of games and deception. That’s my view of the timetable,” Bush said.

His remarks, and British comments that no fresh UN resolution may be needed to authorise war, came after inspectors said they might need a year to find out whether Iraq had illegal arms.

Foreign secretary Jack Straw said Britain wanted a new Security Council resolution authorising force if Iraq defied November’s resolution on disarmament, but it was not vital.

“We’ve had to reserve our rights (to use force) if we can’t achieve that,” he said.

He said Britain awaited a key report from chief UN arms inspectors to the Security Council on January 27, a week after they return from checking the situation in Iraq.

Baghdad said it had already come clean about arms programmes and that its President would fight to the bitter end.

“Saddam Hussein is a courageous leader and will stay in Iraq for a very long time and fight until the last Iraqi bullet,” said deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. The UN inspectors checked another six sites in Iraq, saying they were now getting welcome US and British intelligence to widen their search.

Hans Blix, in charge of chemical and biological inspections, repeated earlier remarks that his teams had uncovered smuggled weapons-related material but said it was unclear if this was linked to suspected weapons of mass destruction.

The dollar slipped briefly on his comments and oil prices rose despite the lack of a clear link to the current crisis. Underscoring divergent views in Europe, France said war was far from certain and Germany, opposed to joining any attack, spoke out for a second UN resolution.

“War is not a foregone conclusion, it’s up to us to prevent it,” foreign minister Dominique de Villepin told the French parliament. “There is no inevitability about this, and I see too much resignation around.”

With Arab states trying to defuse the conflict, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived in Saudi Arabia for talks expected to cover diplomatic efforts to avoid war.

Baghdad said it had answered all questions about its past chemical, biological, missile and nuclear weapons programmes in a 12,000-page declaration handed to the UN last month, though it said it was ready to answer more.

“The declaration has answered everything,” foreign minister Naji Sabri told Iraqi satellite television.

He said he feared weapons inspectors might bow to US pressure to change their course of action, but said Blix and his counterpart at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, could ask anything when they visit on January 19-20.

“We are ready for dialogue with Blix and ElBaradei to answer all their queries or any point which is not clear to them (in Iraq's declaration),” Sabri said. The US says the declaration had gaps and that Baghdad was thus in “material breach” of November’s UN resolution.

Inspectors said yesterday they might need up to a year to complete their work and the US and Britain had seemed keen to show patience.

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