NEW YORK (AP) – Secretary of State Colin Powell will be joined by top CIA officials today as he presents the U.N. Security Council with evidence culled from classified material to try to convince wavering allies and other nations that Iraq has defied calls to disarm.
The evidence is expected to include transcripts and possibly recordings of intercepted conversations of Iraqi officials discussing the country’s weapons programs. There probably also will be images taken by satellites of suspected biological weapons labs, officials said.
Powell’s report also is expected to indicate that Iraqi officials had advance knowledge where U.N. weapons inspectors were going to look, in line with a recent report from the British government that said Iraqi intelligence had bugged inspectors’ telephones and hotel and conference rooms.
CIA Director George Tenet and his chief deputy, John McLaughlin, are expected to accompany Powell. In selecting evidence, Powell and intelligence specialists are said to be taking care not to reveal more about their operations than they could safely show Iraq.
President Bush and his top national security officials have said repeatedly that Iraq will be forcibly disarmed if it does not comply with U.N. resolutions demanding that it reveal and give up weapons of mass destruction.
Arriving in New York yesterday, Powell met first with Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, whose government prefers a diplomatic approach to Iraq rather than using force to disarm President Saddam Hussein.
The chief U.N. weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, are due to visit Baghdad for two days of meetings next weekend. Among their demands is access to Iraqi scientists and other officials without government “minders” auditing the interviews.
Blix said yesterday at the U.N. that it was “five minutes to midnight” and Iraq must be forthcoming about its weapons during the visit. “I don’t think that the end is there, that a date has been set for an armed action, but I think that we’re moving closer and closer to it,” Blix said.