oh yeah!! he's disarming...!

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    Blix: Iraq Hasn't Committed to Disarming
    Feb 27, 9:09 AM (ET)


    UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said Iraq still hasn't committed to disarming, but appeared to push for continued weapons inspections ahead of a debate by a divided Security Council on a U.S. draft resolution authorizing war against Saddam Hussein.

    The council on Thursday will also discuss a French-Russian-German paper aiming to stave off war and prolong inspections at least until July 1.

    President Bush said Wednesday that while the Iraqi regime still has time to avoid war, U.S. troops are ready for battle. He called on allies for their support.

    "The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away," Bush said in Washington.

    The U.S. draft resolution authorizing war was presented earlier this week by the United States, Britain and Spain.

    There was some evidence that Bush was gaining ground for military action, including signals that Mexico had changed its strong anti-war stance and was now preparing to back the U.S.-driven resolution.

    But there were also signs that some undecided council countries, such as Chile, were pushing for a Canadian plan aimed at reconciling bitter differences between the U.S. plan and the French-led proposal.

    Washington on Wednesday rejected the Canadian ideas, which were aimed at giving Iraq until the end of March to complete a list of disarmament tasks that inspectors are compiling.

    State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the proposal "only procrastinates on a decision we all should be prepared to take."

    Meanwhile, State Department officials continued to press Bush's case in world capitals, and some U.S. officials said intense negotiations to stave off a veto from Russia yielded some results.

    The administration may have won new ammunition for its position from chief inspector Hans Blix. He said Wednesday, shortly before submitting a quarterly update on his team's work, that Baghdad has not taken "a fundamental decision" to disarm.

    Blix welcomed recent Iraqi letters that contained new information about its weapons programs but said they did not represent "full cooperation or a breakthrough."

    Nonetheless, he noted that inspections resumed only in November after a four-year break and asked: "Is it the right time to close the door?"

    Saddam is trying to convince the world that he is complying with inspections, despite what the United States says is ample evidence that he is not. In a rare interview with CBS anchor Dan Rather, Saddam dismissed U.S. efforts to encourage his exile.

    "We will die here," he said in the interview, which aired Wednesday.

    Blix's 17-page report was delivered to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will then send it to the Security Council.

    "It's a chronology of what we've been up to for the last three months," said Blix's spokesman, Ewen Buchanan.

    The report submitted Wednesday includes sections on staffing, training, ground inspections and aerial inspections conducted with American made U-2 spy planes and French Mirage jets.

    Asked Wednesday whether there was any evidence that Iraq wants to disarm, Blix said: "I do not think I can say there is evidence of a fundamental decision, but there is some evidence of some increased activity."

    He said an important test of Iraq's cooperation will be whether Saddam complies with the order to start destroying his Al Samoud 2 missiles by SatVrday. A panel of international experts determined earlier in February that the missiles exceed the range limit set by the Security Council at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

    Iraq's response to Blix's order will likely influence whether the council supports the U.S.-backed resolution that would pave the way to war.

    Mexico appeared to be the first among a handful of undecided council members to shift toward the U.S. position, and an important Russian lawmaker, Mikhail Margelov, said Wednesday he doesn't believe his country would veto the resolution.

    But the United States still faces an uphill struggle to win the nine "yes" votes and avoid a veto by France, China or Russia. So far Washington is assured of British, Spanish and Bulgarian support and will now likely get Mexico's vote.

    Mexico's shift came after Bush placed a weekend phone call to Mexican President Vicente Fox, and after senior U.S. officials made numerous visits to the country.

    Mexico had been one of the most outspoken supporters of continued weapons inspections, but Fox shifted his policy in an address on Tuesday. Mexico's new position was then outlined in a foreign policy directive obtained by The Associated Press. The directive didn't mention weapons inspections or "peacefully disarmament," two issues Mexico had pushed for in the council along with other opponents of war with Iraq.

    In advance of the Thursday's council meeting, opponents and supporters of quick military action lobbied for support in New York and world capitals.

    U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte met late Wednesday with the council's 10 non-permanent members. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a firm opponent of war, met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said Moscow opposes any resolution that would trigger military action.

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