JIM LEHRER: Next, the reaction of the Security Council members to the presentations of Blix and ElBaradei, and again to Ray Suarez.
RAY SUAREZ: 15 minutes after the weapons inspector reports, the French Foreign Minister Dominque De Villepin, cautioned against any march to war.
DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN (translated): No one today can claim that the path of war will be shorter than the path of inspections. No one can claim that it would lead to a safer, more just, more stable world, for war is always the sanction of failure. Would this be our sole recourse in the face of the many challenges at this time?
So let us give the United Nations inspectors the time they need for their mission to succeed, but also let us all be vigilant and ask Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei to report regularly to the Council. France, for its part, would propose another meeting on 14 March at the ministerial level to assess the situation. Ten days ago, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, reported alleged links between al-Qaida and the Baghdad regime. Given the present state of our research and intelligence in liaison with our allies, nothing allows us to establish such links. This message comes to you today from an old country, France; from a continent like mine, Europe, that has known war, occupation, barbarity. It is an old country that does not forget and is very aware of all it owes to freedom fighters who came from America and elsewhere. And yet France has always stood upright in the face of history before mankind. Faithful to its values, it wants resolutely to act together with all members of the international community. France believes in our ability to build together a better world. (Applause)
RAY SUAREZ: British Foreign Sec. Jack Straw.
JACK STRAW: Mr. President, I speak on behalf of a very old country founded... (laughter) ...founded in 1066 by the French. (Laughter) Let's just remind ourselves that Iraq is the only country in the world which has launched missile attacks on five of its neighbors; invaded two of its neighbors, both Muslim; and killed, without any justification, hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Iran, in Kuwait, and in Iraq itself. On the 3rd of April, 1991, this Council gave Iraq 90 days to disarm, by the 2nd of July, 1991. And in the 11 years, seven months and 12 days-- quite a lot of time-- since the Council's deadline to Iraq ran out, what is it they've done? Well, they've lied, they've concealed; they've played games.
RAY SUAREZ: Straw commended the inspectors for returning to Iraq, but said they've done so only because they were backed by the threat of force.
JACK STRAW: And if we back away from that, if we decide to give unlimited time, for little or no cooperation on substance, then the disarmament of Iraq and the peace and security of the international community, for which we are responsible, will not get any easier, but very much harder.
RAY SUAREZ: Secretary of State Colin Powell began by noting the signs of progress for the weapons inspectors.
COLIN POWELL: I am pleased that there have been improvements with respect to process. to not having five minders with each inspectors, down to something less than five minders with each inspector. But I think they still are being minded, they're still being watched, they're still being bugged; they still do not have the freedom of access around Iraq that they need to do their job well.
RAY SUAREZ: Powell noted Saddam Hussein's decree today banning all weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
COLIN POWELL: But does anybody really think a decree from Saddam Hussein-- directed to whom-- is going to fundamentally change the situation? And it comes out on a morning when we are moving forward, down the path laid out by Resolution. 1441. These are all process issues. These are all tricks that are being played on us.
RAY SUAREZ: Powell reminded the Council that U.N. Resolution 1441 passed with unanimous support.
COLIN POWELL: Let's see what you have been doing. Give us a declaration that we can believe and is full, complete and accurate. That's what we said to Iraq on the 8th of November and some 29 days later we got 12,000 pages. Nobody in this Council can say that that was a full, complete, or accurate declaration. And now it is several months after that declaration was submitted, and I have heard nothing to suggest that they have filled in the gaps that were in that declaration. We will not tolerate Iraq continuing to have weapons of mass destruction to be used against its own people, to be used against its neighbors, or worse, if we find a post-9/11 nexus between Iraq and terrorist organizations that are looking for just such weapons. And I would submit, and will provide more evidence, that such connections are now emerging and we can establish that they exist.
We cannot wait for one of these terrible weapons to show up in one of our cities and wonder where it came from after it's been detonated by al-Qaida or somebody else. This is the time to go after this source of this kind of weaponry. And that's what 1441 was all about. Force should always be a last resort-- I have preached this for most of my professional life as a soldier and as a diplomat-- but it must be a resort. We cannot allow this process to be endlessly strung out, as Iraq is trying to do right now, "string it out long enough and the world will start looking in other directions; the Security Council will move on; we'll get away with it again." My friends, they cannot be allowed to get away with it again. In the very near future we had have to consider whether or not we've reached that point where this Council, as distasteful as it may be, as reluctant as we may be, as many as... there are so many of you who would rather not have to face this issue, but it's an issue that must be faced., and that is whether or not it is time to consider serious consequences of the kind intended by 1441.
RAY SUAREZ: It's not that time, said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. He endorsed a French proposal to give U.N. inspectors new resources. For his part, Iraq's ambassador, Mohammad al-Douri, acknowledged the various calls for his country's cooperation.
MOHAMMED AL-DOURI (translated): An empty hand has nothing to give. You cannot give what you don't have. If we do not possess such weapons, how can we disarm ourselves of such weapons? Indeed, how can they be disarmed when they do not exist?
RAY SUAREZ: Al-Douri then lashed out at the two nations that he said are motivated by "colonial objectives."
MOHAMMED AL-DOURI: The United States of America and the United Kingdom continue to mass forces against Iraq in an unjust, cruel campaign believing that this vast media campaign will make the world silent.
RAY SUAREZ: Majority Muslim members of the Security Council, Syria and Pakistan, also appealed for peaceful resolution of the confrontation with Iraq.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD, U.N. Ambassador, Syria (Through interpreter): We as neighbors of Iraq with considerable experience in what is going on around us understand more than anyone else that this is the first war in the Middle East region unanimously rejected by the Arabs. The majority, the great majority, of the people of the world are saying no to this war. This war will result in grave consequences for the unity and integrity of Iraq and its people. It will spill over to the entire region.
KHURSHID MAHMUD KASURI, U.N. Ambassador, Pakistan: Mr. President, Pakistan attaches the highest importance to the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq. We have a stake in the preservation of peace and stability in the entire region. And for us, the primary concern is the well being and welfare of the Iraqi people. We must make every possible effort to ensure that the suffering of the Iraqi people is not further exacerbated. Indeed, our aim must be to bring an end to the suffering of the Iraqi people. We trust and hope that the Iraqi leadership will also put its people first.
RAY SUAREZ: In a private session this afternoon, the Security Council decided not to decide whether it should meet on March 14 and announced it would hear from the inspectors again on March 1.