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Washington rallies support for new UN resolution

24th February 2003

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Iraq announced it was considering UN demands to destroy banned missiles to avert war, as Washington rallied support for a new UN disarmament resolution that could be offered in the next few days.

Baghdad on Sunday also asked for a postponement of an Arab summit scheduled for March 1, while chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix told a US newsweekly the regime of President Saddam Hussein could not be trusted.

Iraq's top disarmament liaison officer said Baghdad was still studying Blix's order to begin destroying by March 1 its stock of al-Samoud 2 missiles, which UN inspectors have determined exceed the permitted 150-kilometer (93-mile) range limits.

"We are serious in investigating this issue. We hope this will be solved without American or British intervention ... those who have evil intentions," General Hossam Mohammad Amin said.

He said destruction of the missiles would hurt Iraq's capability to defend itself.

The United States was meanwhile rallying support for a new UN resolution on Iraq, even as it deploys more military forces to the Gulf region.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell was in China on his second stop of a diplomatic tour to Japan, China and South Korea to get backing from Asian powers for a US-led war.

He faces a tough sell in China, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council which has repeatedly voiced its opposition to US President George W. Bush's calls for war.

Powell was expected to ask Beijing to abstain from a Security Council vote if it will not give its blessing for a new resolution authorizing an attack during meetings Monday with Chinese leaders.

Meanwhile, British newspapers said a draft of a new UN resolution on Iraq would be presented Monday, although this was not confirmed by British or US diplomats.

A French diplomatic source said the resolution would be presented Tuesday.

Meanwhile US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, speaking to Iraqi-Americans in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, said that if war breaks out Washington will not hand Iraq over to a "junior Saddam Hussein."
Wolfowitz heard particularly pointed questions about reported US plans to install either a US general or a former Iraqi general after the war.

US officials have said that a US general would run Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the war.

But reports this week said a prominent US civilian would likely be put in charge to lead a transition to some form of representative government.

Several members of the audience warned there would be little support for that here.

Emad Dhia, the outgoing president of the Iraqi-American Forum for Democracy, which hosted the event, likened it to "Saddam without a moustache."
Wolfowitz insisted that the United States had no desire to stay any longer than necessary, and urged Iraqis to think about how to build conditions for representative democracy after the war.

"The key to getting us out quickly is for the Iraqis to come together in the spirit of unity, and harmony and understanding," he said.

In Cairo, Iraq formally requested that an Arab summit scheduled for Saturday be put off until after March 14, when the Security Council is due to meet on Iraq, to avoid pressure from Arab leaders allied with Washington.

One of those leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, urged Arab states to press ahead with an early meeting.

"An Arab summit that is held after a (US-led) strike would be meaningless. It would worsen the Arab situation and lead to a war of words among Arab states," he warned.

The Arab world is divided over the readiness of the pro-Western Gulf states to host a massive US troop buildup around Iraq.

Hans Blix told Time magazine the inspection process is taking longer than expected but should be allowed to continue if it is backed by the threat of force and if Iraq cooperates in a meaningful way, even though Baghdad cannot be trusted.

"Of course they have no credibility. If they had any, they certainly lost it in 1991. I don't see that they have acquired any credibility," Blix said.

"There has to be solid evidence of everything, and if there is not evidence or you can't find it, I simply say sorry, I don't find any evidence and I cannot guarantee or recommend any confidence. It might be there, it might not be there." Blix told the newsweekly he might never be able to account for the chemical and biological weapons Baghdad was known to have produced and now says it destroyed. He also said he found it "a bit odd" that Baghdad claims to have no records of their destruction.

"They've been one of the best-organized regimes in the Arab world," Blix said.

"But then if they destroyed their documents with that efficiency, there might be relatively little left. But I think they've been good in certain parts. And when they've had need of something to show, then they have been able to do so."
US President George W. Bush has insisted time is running out for the world body to enforce its Resolution 1441, which gave Baghdad a final chance to disarm under threat of possible military action when it was unanimously approved November 8.

"Time is short. And this is the chance for the Security Council to show its relevance, and I believe the Security Council will show its relevance because Saddam Hussein has not disarmed," Bush said Saturday.

Bush -- who had called for Resolution 1441 in a September 12 speech at UN headquarters -- has repeatedly warned that he will disarm Iraq by force if necessary if the world body fails to act - Sapa-AFP
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