Originally created 01/26/03

Powell says world must not shrink from duty in Iraq



DAVOS, Switzerland -- Just days before a crucial report by U.N. weapons inspectors, Secretary of State Colin Powell exhorted world leaders Saturday to ensure that Iraq surrenders its forbidden weapons - or to remove them by force if necessary.

"We cannot now start shrinking because the going is getting tough," Powell said, his eye focused on a calendar of events that could determine whether there will be a second war in 12 years against Iraq.

Powell was spending the weekend in this picturesque mountain resort, joining more than 2,000 political and business heavyweights for the annual World Economic Forum. In an address Sunday, Powell planned to speak about Iraq, North Korea and other topics.

The gathering comes ahead of Monday's report by U.N. inspectors to the Security Council about what their weapons hunt in Iraq has yielded in seven weeks.

In Washington, President Bush continued a major effort on Saturday to allay international worries about military conflict in Iraq with telephone conversations with two allies. Bush spoke for about 15 minutes each with the prime minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, and his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi is a key Bush ally in Europe, who has offered moral but not material support for the United States in its confrontation against Iraq. Berlusconi also has said the inspectors' work is bearing fruit and should continue. Bush and Berlusconi had a "warm and good conversation" on the challenge of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's "continued refusal to disarm," said a White House spokesman, Ken Lisaius, who provided no other details about the exchange.

Powell wasted no time in getting out his Iraq message, telling reporters that Saddam has yet to come clean on his weapons of mass destruction.

"We are missing biological agents. We are missing chemical agents. We are missing weapons of delivery. We are missing chemical shells the Iraqis had. We are missing the nuclear program. We are missing documents ... These are not trivial matters. These are deadly serious matters," Powell said.

He added: "Iraq must comply, or it will be made to comply with military force."

The Bush administration has accused Saddam of using intimidation to prevent scientists with knowledge of Iraq's weapons programs from meeting privately with U.N. inspectors.

A senior Iraqi official said Saturday that three scientists refused to submit to private interviews requested by the inspectors. One of the three did undergo questioning, but with a U.N. official present.

Lisaius said Iraq's refusal to allow private interviews is "further evidence that Iraq has something to hide." Iraq must let the interviews go forward, as required by the U.N. resolution, "without delay and without debate." he said.

Powell alluded to a chain of events in the coming days that could be a turning point.

Following the inspectors' report, the Security Council will debate the findings. Bush will weigh in during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. On Friday, he is to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David.

Afterward, Powell said, "We will determine what steps are appropriate at that time to move forward."

Discussing the inspectors' report, a senior American official said U.S. attitudes will be shaped by whether the inspectors conclude their activities in Iraq have been useful.

The Bush administration, meantime, faces the sobering reality that many key governments oppose a war with Iraq, leaving open the clear possibility that the war option will not receive explicit U.N. blessing.

Russia joined France and Germany on Saturday in saying there was currently no justification for military action, believing that inspectors must be given more time to work.

Powell met in Davos with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul against a background of heavy U.S. pressure on Turkey to allow use of its bases to attack Iraq, its neighbor. Public opposition to war is strong in Turkey.

Powell was noncommittal about the meeting. The Turks, he said, "understand our needs and I have a complete understanding of their political situation."

En route to Switzerland, Powell said the United States has been assembling a coalition of countries willing to assist an American-led war effort regardless of what the Security Council does.

"I can rattle off at least a dozen from memory," Powell said.

In Iraq, U.S. warplanes struck inside the southern flight-interdiction zone for a second time in 24 hours.

American planes bombed an Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery site Saturday near Talil, 170 miles southeast of Baghdad, U.S. Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Compton said.

On Friday afternoon, U.S. planes bombed an Iraqi command and control communications site near Al-Haswah, about 35 miles south of Baghdad. Both sites were threats to the U.S. planes patrolling the southern no-fly zone, military officials said.

In an apparent reference to the Friday bombardment, the Iraqi News Agency reported that civilian and military installations were attacked and three people were injured.