Powell Offers 'Irrefutable' Arms Proof; Details Iraqi Violations, Links to Al Qaeda, but U.N. Wants More 'Facts'
Byline: Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
NEW YORK - Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday provided intelligence photographs, audiotapes and a raft of other evidence in an attempt to convince a skeptical U.N. Security Council that Iraq is still developing weapons of mass destruction, in violation of U.N. resolutions.
Mr. Powell enumerated Baghdad's efforts to sanitize chemical arms storage bunkers, weaponize biological poisons, muzzle scientists with threats and detainment and brew weapons in mobile labs mounted inside trucks and rail cars.
"I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations" to disarm, he said in a 78-minute address illustrated with visual aids. "I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable. Iraq has now placed itself in danger of the serious consequences called for in U.N. Resolution 1441."
Mr. Powell, citing new intellgence details, also sought to establish a link between Iraq and terror network al Qaeda.
As he made public a flood of information assembled through electronic means and defectors, CIA Director George J. Tenet and John D. Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, closely observed the proceedings sitting behind him.
The intelligence is based on "sources, solid sources," Mr. Powell said.
He said members of a group affiliated with Abu Musab Zarqawi, who has had contacts with al Qaeda, have been operating freely in Baghdad for eight months.
A senior defector, one of Saddam Hussein's former intelligence chiefs in Europe, says the Iraqi leader sent his agents to Afghanistan sometime in the mid-1990s to provide training to al Qaeda members on document forgery, according to Mr. Powell.
"From the late 1990s until 2001, the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan played the role of liaison to the al Qaeda organization," he said.
France, Russia and China, all armed with a veto in the council, continued to show a deep reluctance to support the tough U.S. stance against Iraq.
Few of the dozen foreign ministers who had gathered at the United Nations - most for the second time in less than two weeks - departed from scripts that had been written, translated and photocopied before Mr. Powell spoke.
But the leaders of 10 Central and Eastern European countries issued a statement in support of the U.S. posture, similar to an opinion article by eight European heads of state and government that appeared in U.S. and European newspapers less than a week ago.
Mr. Powell attempted to build a convincing case against Baghdad and tried to show that complicity in its pattern of lies and evasions goes all the way to Saddam and includes high-ranking military figures and a vast intelligence network.
"I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling," he said.
"What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts on Iraq's behavior ... demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort, no effort to disarm as required by the international community."
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed al-Douri, rejected Mr. Powell's presentation as "untruthful allegation."
But many council nations took the presentation as confirmation of the need for further work by U.N. weapons inspectors, whose chiefs - Hans Blix of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency - return to Baghdad this weekend.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of the most vocal opponents of war with Iraq, advocated beefing up the international effort.
"Let us double, let us triple the number of inspectors. Let us open more regional offices," he said yesterday. "Could we not, for example, set up a specialized body to keep under surveillance the sites and areas that have already been inspected? …