World Awaits the Verdict of Hans Blix Inspections

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Byline: Gavin Cordon

Britain and America last night urged the United Nations to hold their nerve over Iraq as the chief weapons inspector Hans Blix prepared to deliver the report which could seal the fate of Saddam Hussein.

Tony Blair warned of the 'futility' of carrying on with inspections if Iraq was failing to co-operate, while President George Bush said the UN must not 'fade into history as an ineffective debating society'.

Both London and Washington will be looking for confirmation that Iraq remains in 'material breach' of its obligations to disarm when Dr Blix makes his keenly awaited second progress report to the UN Security Council today. In a speech to US navy personnel in Florida, Mr Bush said the UN must have the 'backbone and courage' to enforce its resolutions, while Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said there could be 'no illusions that this means disarmament by force'.

However they are facing strong opposition from the anti-war camp within the UN by France and Germany who could block a fresh Security Council resolution authorising military intervention.

While Britain and the US believe they already have the authority to go to war under existing resolution 1441, Mr Blair in particular would like a second resolution to help win over public opinion and prevent a damaging split in the Labour Party. Britain and America's next move will depend on exactly what Dr Blix says in his report, although diplomats played down suggestions that they could immediately table a new draft resolution.

However US Secretary of State Colin Powell signalled the uncompromising mood in Washington when he promised to confront France and Germany at tomorrow's meeting and challenge them over whether they were delaying in order to 'get Saddam Hussein off the hook'.

In his speech in Florida, Mr Bush said the Security Council had to show that when it laid down a resolution, it had the will to enforce it. …