Inspectors Seek "Drastic Change" in Iraqi Cooperation
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters, ”The message coming from the Security Council is very clear: that Iraq is not cooperating fully, that they need to show drastic change in terms of cooperation.”
ElBaradei and chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London Thursday. The two are scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials on Saturday, ahead of their next report to the Security Council Feb. 14.
“We need to show progress in our report,” ElBaradei said. “Our mission in Baghdad this weekend is crucial. We hope we will secure full, 100 percent cooperation on the part of Iraq.”
Blix expressed his frustration at Iraq’s relationship with inspectors, saying that “what has not worked is for the Iraqi side either to present prohibited items for destruction or present evidence that they are finished,” he said.
“We hope that at this late hour … that they will come to a positive response,” Blix added. “If they do not do that, then our report next Friday will not be what we would like it to be.”
Meanwhile, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] agreed Thursday to go ahead with a U.S.-backed plan to prepare for a possible war in Iraq — a proposal representatives from France and Germany had opposed for nearly three weeks.
Officials said the plan includes the deployment of surveillance planes, Patriot anti-missile systems, in-air refueling planes and NATO’s anti-chemical, biological and nuclear weapons center, the Associated Press reported.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson told reporters that alliance members who oppose the plan have until Monday to halt military preparations. He said he expected a full decision on the matter early next week.
The NATO move came as Turkey’s parliament agreed to allow the U.S. to begin renovating the country’s military bases for use in a possible Iraq conflict. According to the AP, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said he would wait more than a week before asking lawmakers to allow U.S. combat troops in the country.
“The permission we want to get from the parliament today is to prepare some of our ports in case we are compelled in the end and there is a war outside our will,” Gul said before the vote. “We have to prepare ourselves for the worst case scenario.”
The moves come a day after Secretary of State Colin Powell made the U.S. case for military action to the Security Council. During his nearly 90-minute address, Powell used satellite photographs and audio tapes of alleged intercepted conversations between Iraqi officials discussing the concealment of banned weapons.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, Powell said he expects the Iraq conflict will “one way or another” be brought to a conclusion “within weeks.”
During a press conference late Wednesday, Presidential adviser Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi suggested some of the evidence Powell used in his report was fabricated, and said the U.N. presentation “proved nothing.”
“What we heard today was for the general public and mainly the uninformed, in order to influence their opinion and to commit the aggression on Iraq,” al-Saadi said. “This was a typical American show, complete with stunts and special effects.”
World reaction to Powell’s U.N. address remained mixed, with officials from France on Thursday continuing to press for continuing weapons inspections.
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin did not say how long he thought inspections should continue, but told France’s Europe 1 radio that “there is a broad majority in the U.N. Security Council for inspections to be continued.”
“The day that we reach an impasse [on inspections], the Security Council will then have to evaluate the situation, on the basis of the inspectors’ report, and with a second resolution,” he added.