IRAQ CRISIS: Powell Fights Losing Battle at UN; Sceptics Stand Firm in Face of 'Irrefutable' Weapons Evidence

Article excerpt

US Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday presented tape recordings, satellite photos and informants' statements that he said constituted "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Saddam Hussein is concealing weapons of mass destruction.

"Clearly, Saddam will stop at nothing until something stops him," Powell told a sceptical UN Security Council, saying Baghdad's denials represents a "web of lies".

Three months after Iraq pledged that it would disarm, Powell presented his evidence in an appearance that was televised live around the world.

The council members - joined by Iraq's UN ambassador - sat around a large, horseshoe-shaped table with Powell and listened attentively.

Of the 15 council members, only the United States and Britain have voiced support for forcibly disarming Saddam.

Powell's remarks did not seem to sway the other three veto-holding members of the Security Council.

Representatives of China, Russia and France all said after his presentation that the work of the weapons inspectors should continue.

Coming to Powell's defence, Foreign Minister Jack Straw said the secretary made a "most powerful" case. Saddam is "gambling that we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will".

In a presentation that lasted more than an hour, Powell also detailed the US claims that Baghdad and al-Qaida operatives are working together and that some followers of a senior lieutenant of Osama bin Laden are currently in Baghdad, with the approval of Saddam.

Saddam, in an interview broadcast on Tuesday, denied that his government has a relationship with al-Qaida or has weapons of mass destruction. He said it would be impossible to hide such arms.

In his presentation, Powell:

l Asserted that Iraq "bulldozed and graded to conceal chemical weapons evidence" at the Al Musayyib chemical complex in 2002, and had a series of cargo vehicles and a decontamination vehicle moving around at the site. Powell said that was corroborated by a human source.

l Played audio tapes of what Powell said were intercepted phone conversations between Iraqi military officers. …