WASHINGTON (AP) - Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says only some "loose ends" stand in the way of resuming his hunt for hidden arms depots in Iraq. But Secretary of State Colin Powell intends to slow him down.
At their meeting late Friday, Powell was willing to talk about inspection arrangements, but he also was determined to get a new U.N. resolution through the Security Council with tough provisions. It includes a threat to use force if President Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm before Blix's team gets going.
The U.S. diplomatic drive is in high gear but gaining little ground, as Russia and France continue to resist threatening Iraq. Those countries remain inclined to take Saddam up on his offer to admit inspectors under old U.N. resolutions that uncovered some weapons but not all the United States suspects are hidden away.
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Russia's deputy foreign minister, Yuri Fedotov, was quoted by ITAR-Tass news agency Friday as saying "the existing Security Council resolutions on the Iraqi problem are quite sufficient."
Powell telephoned U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Friday, and talked Thursday to Straw, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham.
Faring much better is President Bush's pitch to Congress for authority to use force against Iraq. The House International Affairs Committee voted its approval 31-11 on Thursday and Senate leaders predicted wide margins of bipartisan support.
"It's up to us today to send a message to the world," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. He predicted Congress would give Bush the authority he wants by next week and "set in motion the beginning of the end of Saddam Hussein."
But even as Congress lined up behind Bush, he was warned that it would be a mistake to use force against Iraq without the support of other countries.
"We don't want to do something alone, or with one other country, and bypass the U.N. and then, three years from now, have China or India or Russia or somebody else say, 'You did it, we can do it,' " House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said.
Bush, clearly frustrated with the United Nations, where the four recent converts to the U.S. position were Colombia, Bulgaria, Norway and Singapore, suggested he would build a coalition of world leaders willing to join the United States against Iraq - even if the United Nations did not.
U.S. officials cite Britain, long steadfast in its support of the United States, and such smaller countries as Romania and Bulgaria.
"The choice is up (to) the United Nations to show its resolve. The choice is up to Saddam Hussein to fulfill his word," Bush said. "And if neither of them acts, the United States in deliberate fashion will lead a coalition to take away the world's worst weapons from one of the world's worst leaders."
Cautioning against going it alone against Iraq, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there was a "pervasive if not a dominant feeling" among U.S. military leaders that Iraq would be more likely to use weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops if they were not part of a multinational force.
In advance of their meeting at the State Department, which Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, was expected to join, Powell and Blix both tried to avoid any sign of serious disagreement. Powell has praised the U.N. disarmament chief, and while Blix said Thursday he was ready to return to Iraq "at the earlier practical opportunity," he also said "we have not purchased the air tickets yet."
"It would be awkward if we were doing inspections and a new mandate with new changed directives arrive," he told reporters after briefing the Security Council on the agreement he reached with Iraq earlier in the week.
Echoing what some delegations were saying privately at the United Nations, Blix said, "It would be better to have those early."
In the meantime, Blix is moving ahead with plans to send an advance team to Baghdad in mid-October following an agreement he reached with Iraq earlier this week on logistics for resuming inspections after nearly four years.
Mohamed ElBaradei, whose International Atomic Energy Agency is in charge of nuclear inspections, indicated inspectors would wait for a decision. "We need to align our date with the deliberation of the council," he said.
ElBaradei is joining Blix in Washington on Friday for his meetings with Powell and Rice.
"I hope to hear something of what their planning is, and we'll tell them what our planning is," Blix said with a grin.
There are complaints that the United States is not moving fast enough, and not circulating its proposed resolution. But U.S. diplomats say they are proceeding in the usual manner of talking to other government about the text before presenting it for adoption.
France, Russia and China all have the power to kill any resolution with their veto as permanent members of the Security Council.
The proposed U.S. resolution would open Saddam's palaces to inspection, give Iraq 30 days to agree to disarm, authorize inspectors to establish "no-fly" and "no-drive" zones that are off-limits to Iraqi officials and warn of consequences if Saddam does not comply with any one of several demands.
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