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Powell: Window Is Closing for Peaceful Solution in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2003 – The window for Saddam Hussein to disarm peacefully "is closing rapidly," Secretary of State Colin Powell said this morning.

"I think if we do not see a remarkable, unexpected change, ... then I think the probability of war is rapidly increasing," Powell said on the NBC news program "Meet the Press."

Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took to the airwaves this morning to explain the U.S. position on disarming Iraq.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote early this week on a resolution proposed by Britain and the United States that would set a deadline of March 17 for Iraq to disarm or face military consequences.

Powell said he's not sure how that vote will turn out.

"I am encouraged by the conversations I've been having with a number of members of the council," the secretary said. "There are some members of the council among the permanent membership of the council that are firmly against such a vote, ... but I think most of the elected 10 members are making up their minds over this weekend."

He added he's encouraged that the resolution might get the nine or 10 votes needed for passage.

France, China and Russia have vocally opposed such a resolution, saying the inspection process is working and should be given more time to yield results.

Powell today noted France, the most outspoken opponent of using military force, hasn't "used the word 'veto.'"

He added, "But they've certainly indicated that they would use their veto." The French have said they wouldn't support such a resolution and would do what they could to stop it.

The United States hasn't done a "serious vote count," Rice explained on the CBS news program "Face the Nation." But, she added, U.S. leaders and diplomats are trying to "persuade people that it is really time now for the Security Council to take on its responsibilities and defend Resolution 1441."

Security Council Resolution 1441 was approved unanimously in November 2002 as a final opportunity for Hussein to come into compliance with previous Security Council resolutions regarding disarmament.

Resolution 1441 "was a final opportunity for (Saddam Hussein) to disarm," Rice said. "It was not a final opportunity for him to make a little bit of progress. It wasn't a final opportunity for him to have more inspectors."

If the new proposed resolution doesn't pass, the date March 17 would not be relevant in terms of U.N. action. Then, Powell added, it would be up to President Bush to decide on action regarding Iraq.

Powell also spoke to allegations by International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei that U.S. claims regarding Iraq's nuclear weapons program are false. He said the United States and a European nation have solid evidence that aluminum tubes Iraq purchased from Niger were for producing nuclear material, not conventional rockets as Iraq has claimed.

He reminded host Tim Russert that the IAEA "almost gave Iraq a clean bill of health in the early '90s only to discover that they had a robust nuclear weapons program that the (IAEA) had not discovered."

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