February 9, 2003
U.S. Demands Iraq Show Cooperation by the Weekend
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell warned today that if Saddam Hussein was still not cooperating with United Nations inspectors at the end of this week, President Bush would press immediately for consideration of a Security Council resolution authorizing possible use of force against Iraq.
Mr. Powell's comments laid out what appeared to be an accelerating timetable in the confrontation with Iraq, even as France, Germany and other member of the Security Council continued to call for more time before considering the use of force.
Mr. Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, also said time was running short, as the administration seemed to be setting in motion a swift showdown with France and Germany, two of the United States' closest allies. Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, said today that Moscow, too, was aligning itself with Paris and Bonn. He spoke after talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany. [Page A10.]
A potentially divisive new element arose, meanwhile, as the commander of American forces in Europe, Gen. James L. Jones, told members of Congress of a plan under study to scale back American forces in Germany. During a briefing to a visiting Congressional delegation last week, General Jones, who also is supreme commander of NATO forces, said the plan envisioned scattering the forces to bases in several countries, those closer to the Persian Gulf.
According to a Senate aide familiar with the briefing, the plan is still preliminary, but in the context of the United Nations deliberations, it is sure to be contentious.
American officials say the next important day in the quickening pace of events on Iraq is this Friday, when Hans Blix and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, are to deliver an updated report on whether Iraq is cooperating with the inspections ordered by the Council in November.
In Baghdad, Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei said today that they had made some progress in getting Iraq to cooperate on showing weapons sites but that they had no breakthrough to report. [Page A10.]
American officials say they will be satisfied only with a complete agreement by Iraq to reveal all its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and to disarm.
If Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei report that Mr. Hussein is still not cooperating next Friday, "then the Security Council will have to sit in session immediately and determine what should happen next," Mr. Powell said on NBC News program "Meet the Press."
The Security Council, he added, would then have to "start considering a resolution that says Iraq is in material breach and it is time for serious consequences to follow." The phrase "serious consequences" is used by American officials to refer to military force.
Mr. Powell dismissed reports that France and Germany, and perhaps Russia, would recommend deploying United Nations peacekeepers in Iraq along with inspectors, saying that would be pointless. The reports, first raised in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, were played down by French and German officials as well, although they said discussions were under way to seek some alternative to quick military action.
Mr. Bush also increased pressure on the United Nations today to act on Iraq. Speaking to Republican members of Congress at a retreat in West Virginia, Mr. Bush said the American goal "over the next short period of time" would be to work with "friends and allies and the United Nations to bring that body along."
Mr. Bush did not mention Friday as a turning point. Ms. Rice said that he had set no deadline for action by the Security Council, but that in his recent phrase, "weeks not months really means weeks not months."
But while the main pressure exerted today was on the United Nations, Mr. Powell and others in the administration were also seeking to put pressure on France and Germany over a growing dispute within NATO on Iraq. The dispute centers on a refusal by France, Germany and Belgium to agree to Turkey's request for military equipment to prepare for a possible war.
Echoing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's comments in Germany over the weekend, Mr. Powell said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "inexcusable" for France, Germany and Belgium to block the request, coming as it did from a fellow NATO member.
The NATO Charter requires the alliance to come to the defense of any member attacked, as Turkey fears it will be in the event of a war.
The NATO alliance is to decide the issue on Monday, but there was no sign today that France, Germany and Belgium were wavering. The three nations say that without a Security Council resolution authorizing war, it is premature to start supplying Turkey with the equipment requested, including Patriot missiles and Awacs surveillance aircraft.
"For three NATO nations to say, with respect to a fourth NATO nation, `We won't even consider that at this time because of a dispute, really, we're having within the United Nations Security Council about what follows next,' I think is inexcusable on the part of those countries," Mr. Powell said.
The French and German position is said to be especially infuriating at the Pentagon, where planners say the Patriot missiles and other equipment need to start moving right now in order to reach Turkey on time. Mr. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz have spent considerable effort in the last several months to line up Turkish help for a war with Iraq, and their efforts have borne fruit recently.
But French and German diplomats say that Turkey does not need the equipment now, and that the United States is pressing for it now only to give the shaky government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul in Turkey a show of political support that he can cite in his efforts to supply troops for an Iraq war.
American officials have tried to play down their anger over the NATO dispute, in part out of a desire not to aggravate tensions. But one American official called it a problem that could affect the unity of the entire Atlantic alliance forged after World War II.
Some say the relationship between the United States on one hand and France and Germany on the other is becoming increasingly poisonous. President Jacques Chirac of France was described by knowledgeable officials as furious over American efforts to gather support from other European nations for a war with Iraq.
"Chirac is not amused that the United States seems to be trying to isolate him and suggest that France is not the real leader of Europe," a European diplomat said.
The diplomat was referring to recently successful efforts to line up eight other nations in Europe to sign a declaration favoring disarmament of Iraq, which was interpreted as a rebuff to France. French officials complained that France had not been asked to sign the declaration, which they noted did not actually call for a war and therefore might have been acceptable to Mr. Chirac.
A second letter was released by 10 other European nations, mostly from Eastern Europe. Mr. Powell said today that those letters of support indicated that many Europeans supported the United States' view, even if France and Germany did not.
There was some confusion, meanwhile, over whether there would be a French and German counterproposal this coming week — possibly backed by Russia — to avoid a confrontation with Iraq by instead demanding that Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei be given more inspectors and be backed by possible use of United Nations troops while they do their inspections.
France and Germany denied a report in Der Spiegel that they were talking secretly about such a proposal. Mr. Powell said he had not seen it, but that if it was an offshoot of a similar proposal by France last week for more inspectors, and more time for them to do their work, the idea was a nonstarter.
"I do not know what that accomplishes," Mr. Powell said on the ABC News program "This Week," referring to the proposal to add inspectors. "The issue is not more inspectors or more robust inspections. The issue is: Will Iraq comply? Will it give up its weapons of mass destruction?"
He said more inspectors would accomplish nothing without a change of approach by Mr. Hussein. Similarly, adding United Nations troops would also not help, he said.
"What are these blue-helmeted U.N. forces going to do?" he asked. "Shoot their way into Iraqi compounds?"
He said Iraq had to "come clean" and not have inspectors "play detectives or Inspector Clouseau running all around Iraq looking for this material." He was referring not to United Nations inspectors but to the fictional, bumbling inspector in a series of "Pink Panther" films starring Peter Sellers.