Powell: International Community Should Remember Issue at Hand


By Kathleen T. Rhem, AFPS

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2003 — Senior U.S. and British officials put up a united front here today in discussing the two countries’ determination to disarm Saddam Hussein.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, said U.N. Security Council member countries need to remember that the issue facing them is disarming Iraq, not squabbling over how long to give U.N. inspectors to find a "smoking gun" there.

"Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the issue is the disarmament of Iraq," Powell told reporters after meeting with Straw at the State Department. "Not how much more time the inspectors need, but how much more time should we give to Iraq when they have not used the time they’ve been given to do what is required of them, and that is to disarm."

Powell said several important questions should be asked of Iraq: "Why are they trying to deceive the inspectors? Why are they not allowing reconnaissance to take place? Why are they hiding documents in the homes of individuals? Why are they just starting to discover things that should have been declared? Why was the declaration so false?"

He noted the council will make a judgment on these issues after inspectors deliver a progress report Jan. 27. But should council members fail to fulfill their commitments in disarming Iraq, "each member, … including the United States, reserves the right to act in a way that’s consistent with its international obligations, as well as its own national interest," he said.

Straw agreed with Powell that the United Nations should uphold its responsibility to disarm Iraq in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1441. Both men said they want to work through the United Nations, but intimated they wouldn’t rely on it if the council refuses to follow through.

"(The British government’s) position, I think, is exactly the same as that of the United States’ government," Straw said, "which is that we wish to maintain that faith in the United Nations, but there has to be reciprocal responsibility shown by the United Nations."

The British secretary ticked off a list of items Iraq has not accounted for, according to U.N. inspectors: 3,000 tons of chemical precursors used to manufacture chemical weapons; 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tons of VX; 30,000 munitions for delivering chemical and biological agents; and 555 mustard gas shells.

"Any of those sets of munitions could cause lethal damage across the region and could be used in terrorism across the world," he said.

German and French leaders in recent days have threatened to veto the use of force and have urged the United States to give the inspectors more time to work. Powell today reminded them of their earlier support of Resolution 1441, which authorized "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to disarm.

"The international community spoke clearly in that resolution," he said. "For the international community now to say, ‘Never mind; I’ll walk away from this problem,’ or ignore it and allow it to be strung out indefinitely with no end, I think, would be a defeat for the international community and a serious defeat for the United Nations process."