Don't let Saddam split world opinion: Powell
THURSDAY, MARCH 06, 2003 07:50:34 AM
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Colin Powell has warned the international community not to let Iraqi president Saddam Hussein split it into "arguing factions", even as France, Germany and Russia joined hands to block the US-backed resolution on Iraq in the Security Council.
"Iraq's too-little too-late gestures are meant not just to deceive and delay action by the international community, he has as one of his major goals to divide the international community, to split us into arguing factions. That effort must fail," Powell said on Wednesday in a hastily arranged speech to a foreign policy group here.
He said that Iraq had let go of the "one last chance" to avoid the "serious consequences" the Council had threatened if Iraq failed to disarm.
Powell insisted that the only real issue left was whether Saddam had made a strategic decision, a political decision, to give up "these horrible weapons of mass destruction."
Powell's speech to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies was hastily arranged as a diplomatic battle raged over a new US-Britain-Spain sponsored Security Council resolution on Iraq and two days ahead of the UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's briefing to the world body on latest developments on Iraqi disarmament.
Earlier, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia joined forces in vowing to block the US-backed resolution. France and Russia have the veto power in the Security Council.
"There are divisions among us," Powell said, adding "if these divisions continue, they will convince Saddam Hussein that he is right. But I assure you, he is wrong."
Powell alleged that Iraq was trying to deter scientists linked to its weapons of mass destruction programs from speaking with UN inspectors.
New US intelligence data, showed Iraqi leaders ordered "continued production" of Al-Samoud 2 missile stocks they had started to destroy.
The data also showed Iraq intended to destroy "only a portion" of the Al-Samoud missiles it had promised the UN it would scrap, Powell said.
Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that time was running short for the Iraqi president.
"Saddam Hussein can prevent the use of force. To do so, he will have to disarm or leave," he said.
Powell will visit the United Nations on Friday, fourth time in less than two months, for hearing Blix's latest report on Iraq disarmament and to lobby for the resolution proposed by the US, Britain and Spain.
"It is more likely action will be taken," Powell said, adding "at the same time, we have also made it clear that we believe the threat is so great that if the Security Council is unable to take action despite our best effort to work with it,... we believe, (we) reserve the option to act with the coalition of willing nations."
"Don't leap to conclusions about the final vote. You will continue to hear various statements by various people around the world," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said indicating that the US opinion would prevail.
"... nobody really knows who has the votes until the votes are taken," said Powell.
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