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U.S. case against Hussein aired today

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 5, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- Colin Powell, secretary of state, becomes Colin Powell, prosecutor, today, arguing to diplomats that war may be necessary to curb Saddam Hussein's ambitions for chemical and biological weapons.

He may well face a hung jury.

On the eve of Powell's globally televised presentation to the U.N. Security Council, set to begin at 10:30 a.m., French President Jacques Chirac again called for giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time before going to war. Germany, Russia and China have also challenged the Bush administration's threats to remove the Iraqi dictator.

Powell plans to argue that Hussein is violating a U.N. resolution by working to hide illegal weapons from U.N. inspectors, aides said. He is expected to cite telephone intercepts and surveillance photographs in urging the council to support the possible use of force if Hussein refuses to disclose his weapons stockpiles.

CIA director George Tenet and his chief deputy, John McLaughlin, are expected to accompany Powell.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, meanwhile, warned that it's "five minutes to midnight" and urged Iraq to change its ways or face attack.

"I don't think that the end is there, that a date has been set for an armed action," Blix said. "But I think that we're moving closer and closer to it, and therefore it seems to me that the Iraqi leadership must be well aware of that."

Blix's report to the Security Council last week, criticizing what he called Iraq's refusal to accept disarmament, set the stage for Powell's presentation today. The secretary's 90-minute talk is expected to feature slide shows and satellite photographs, but its impact may be strictly theatrical; even if the U.N. Security Council balks at a new resolution setting a firm deadline for Iraqi compliance, President Bush may go ahead, as he is busy assembling a "coalition of the willing" to take action.

U.N. representatives of the other 14 Security Council members are expected to respond to his speech.

Bush administration officials said the burden of proof, as defined by the resolution the Security Council approved in November, is on Hussein to prove that he has disarmed.

Not only has he refused to do so, officials said, but his government has worked actively to deceive the inspectors who were sent back into Iraq under the U.N. resolution. Aides said Powell's evidence includes surveillance photos and telephone intercepts that show Iraqi officials conspiring to move equipment to evade the inspectors.

U.S officials believe they have the authority to go into Iraq now, based on what they see as its violation of the U.N. disarmament resolution. Other nations want a second Security Council resolution giving Iraq a hard and fast deadline. Bush said he doesn't object to a second resolution as long as it does not delay the matter for months.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, America's most vocal ally in the confrontation with Iraq, is pushing for a second resolution, but appeared to make little headway after a meeting with Chirac, the French president.

"There is still much to be done in the way of disarmament by peaceful means," Chirac said.

In brief

KILLED U.S. SOLDIER IDENTIFIED: The Pentagon identified the U.S. soldier who was killed in a road accident in Qatar last Saturday as Sgt. Michael C. Barry, 29, of Overland Park, Kan. Barry, of the Army National Guard, died from injuries sustained as a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by another vehicle in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The accident is under investigation.

KUWAIT PUTS BORDER ZONE OFF LIMITS: Kuwait announced plans Tuesday night to close off the northern half of the country in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq. The restrictions, which take effect Feb. 15, were described as a step to protect Kuwaiti citizens living in the area. The decision to make the sandy desert south of the Iraqi border a military reservation also clears the zone for the continued buildup of U.S. ground forces.

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