Armed with satellite images, transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations and other intelligence data, United States Secretary of State Colin Powell today presented the United Nations Security Council with what he called "solid" evidence that showed Iraq still has not complied with resolutions calling for it to disarm.
"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence," Mr. Powell told the ministerial-level session of the 15-member body. Before hearing Mr. Powell's presentation, the Council members decided to grant Iraq's request to allow its representative sit at the Council table and make a statement at the end of the meeting.
The US Secretary of State stressed that Iraq still poses a threat and remains in "material breach" of Council resolutions. "Indeed, by its failure to seize its one last opportunity to come clean and disarm, Iraq has put itself in deeper material breach and close to the day when it will face serious consequences for its continued defiance of this Council," he said. "We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility to the citizens of our countries."
Mr. Powell stressed that Iraq's continued efforts to conceal evidence and documents from UN inspectors, the active interference by Saddam Hussein himself to prevent interviews with Iraqi individuals, and a host of other activities that demonstrated its non-compliance were all violations of the terms of Security Council Resolution 1441. That text, he emphasized, states that "false statements and omissions" and a failure by Iraq "to comply with, and cooperate fully" in the implementation of the resolution should constitute a further material breach of its obligations.
"This body places itself in danger of irrelevance if it allows Iraq to continue to defy its will without responding effectively and immediately," Mr. Powell warned. "The issue before us is not how much more time we are willing to give the inspectors to be frustrated by Iraqi obstruction, but how much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's non-compliance before we say: 'Enough!'"
Referring to the audio-visual evidence he presented to the Council, Mr. Powell said the material had US and foreign origins, and came from technical sources, such as intercepted telephone conversations and photos taken by satellites. "Other sources are people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to," he said.
"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," Mr. Powell said. "What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behaviour. The facts and Iraq's behaviour demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort - no effort - to disarm as required by the international community. Indeed, the facts and Iraq's behaviour show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction."
The satellite photos shown by Mr. Powell reflected what he called "concealment" activity undertaken in response to the resumption of UN inspections last November, while other images depicted suspected manufacturing sites for biological and chemical weapons. Mr. Powell also played tapes of intercepted conversations between Iraqi military personnel that he said indicated a concerted effort to hide or destroy evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Powell also said there has been no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons programme. According to testimony provided by defectors, Iraq already possesses two of the three key components needed to build a nuclear bomb, a cadre of scientists with the necessary expertise and a bomb design. "Since 1998, his efforts to reconstitute his nuclear programme have been focuses on acquiring the third and last component - sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion," he said.
Turning to terrorism, Mr. Powell said Iraq had a long history of supporting terrorist organizations and that there was a potentially "more sinister nexus" between Baghdad and the Al-Qaida network. He said Iraq's denials of any ties with the organization are not credible.
"None of this should come as a surprise to any of us," Mr. Powell said. "Terrorism has been a tool of Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name, and this support continues. The nexus of poisons and terror is new; the nexus of Iraq and terror is old. The combination is lethal."
On human rights abuses, Mr. Powell recounted how Mr. Hussein used mustard and nerve gases against the Kurds in 1988, successfully invaded neighbouring States "with provocation," and "ruthlessly eliminates" anyone who dares to dissent. "Underlying all that I have said, underlying all the facts and the patterns of behaviour I have identified, is Saddam Hussein's contempt for the will of this Council, his contempt for the truth, and most damning of all, his utter contempt for human life," he said.
"We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction and make more," Mr. Powell said. "Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression, given what we know of his grandiose plans, given what we know of his terrorist associations, and given his determination to exact revenge on those who have opposed him, should we take the risk that he will not someday use these weapons at a time and a place and in a manner of his choosing - at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond?"
Mr. Powell said the United States "will not - we cannot - run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option. Not in a post-September 11th world."