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IN THE NEWS - February 8, 2003: Powell’s Presentation to the UN - 2003-02-07

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In The News.

This week, American Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the Bush administration’s most detailed argument for immediate action against Iraq.

Mister Powell gave the United Nations Security Council what had been secret information gathered by American intelligence. He said the information provides undeniable evidence that Iraq is hiding banned weapons from U-N inspectors. He also said Iraq’s failure to disarm violates U-N Resolution fourteen-forty-one. The measure requires Iraq to declare all its weapons of great destruction or face serious actions. Mister Powell said the importance of the United Nations itself is in danger if the Council fails to act.

The presentation included satellite pictures that were said to show active chemical weapons storage areas in Iraq. Mister Powell played a recording of what he said were Iraqi military officers discussing ways to trick U-N inspectors. Another tape was said to contain the voices of two Iraqi officers discussing orders not to talk about nerve agents. He also presented what he said was intelligence that Iraq is attempting to hide its missile production from the U-N.

Mister Powell accused Iraq of supporting and protecting Palestinian terrorists. For the first time, he also discussed American evidence that Iraq has links to the al-Qaida terror group. He said Iraq has provided a safe area and chemical and biological weapons training for operatives of Abu Musab Zarqawi. He is reported to have close ties with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Mister Powell said the Zarqawi group was responsible for killing American aid official Lawrence Foley in Jordan last year. He also said the group’s members have been operating freely in Baghdad for the past eight months.

The Security Council invited the Iraqi ambassador to the U-N to provide official reaction to Mister Powell’s presentation. Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri denied all of the American accusations. He said Iraq has no weapons of great destruction. He suggested that evidence presented by Mister Powell had been created to build support for war.

The Security Council remains divided on how to deal with the Iraqi situation. The foreign ministers of China, France and Russia all say they want the U-N weapons inspections to continue. All three countries have the power to veto a resolution approving force against Iraq.

Only British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed strong support for Mister Powell. Mister Straw said calls for more inspections serve no purpose because Saddam Hussein clearly will not cooperate.

The weapons inspections continue in Iraq. The chief U-N weapons inspectors return to Baghdad this weekend for talks with Iraqi officials. The chief inspectors will meet again with the Security Council next Friday.

This VOA Special English program, In The News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.