On Sept. 12, President Bush went before the United Nations and challenged the Security Council to meet its responsibility to act against the threat to international peace and security posed by Iraq. The council's unanimous passage of Resolution 1441 was a historic step for the United Nations toward ridding Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means.
The international community has given Saddam Hussein and his regime one last chance. It is now for Baghdad to seize it.
Seven weeks of consultation, debate and negotiation in the Security Council only forged a deeper agreement and a stronger resolve among the world that Iraq must fully and finally disarm. It should now be clear to Saddam Hussein that this is not just a matter between Iraq and the United States, but between Iraq and a united world.
After 11 years of flouting dozens of U.N. resolutions and statements, Hussein's contempt for the international community is obvious. We are all well acquainted with the tactics of denial, deceit and delay that he has used time and again to avoid compliance. We are also well aware of the brutal and aggressive nature of his regime. He has twice invaded his neighbors and he has used chemical weapons not just against other countries but against his own citizens: men, women and children.
During the four years since inspectors have been barred from Iraq, Hussein has done everything he can to acquire and develop more weapons of mass destruction -- whether biological, chemical or nuclear. He has no scruples about using the weapons that he possesses or about providing them to terrorists should that suit his interests.
Long experience with Saddam Hussein and his regime tells us that he will respond only when confronted with steadfast resolve and the threat of force. Every member of the Security Council understands that if Hussein fails to comply with Resolution 1441, there must be serious consequences.
The words of the resolution are unambiguous:
-- The Security Council has found Iraq in material breach of its solemn obligations.
-- Iraq has been given one week to state whether it intends to comply with Resolution 1441.
-- Iraq must produce a comprehensive declaration of its weapons programs.
-- Iraq must submit to an inspection regime that is far tougher and far more thorough than ever before.
Saddam Hussein must give the inspectors immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access to uncover the weapons of mass destruction that he has had so many years to hide. Access not just to places such as presidential palaces but to people and other sources of information will be critical, because you have to know where and when to look in order to find biological and chemical weapons that are easy to conceal and move. Without access to key people and information, the inspectors would have to search under every roof and in the back of every truck.
The chief U.N. inspector, Hans Blix, and the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, have been given the robust regime they need. The United States will support the inspectors in every way. Other U.N. members will do the same.
The disarmament process must now begin. The first inspectors plan to arrive in Iraq one week from tomorrow. The world will be watching. The inspectors are required to update the Security Council 60 days after inspections start. Inspectors also are required to inform the council whenever they encounter interference or obstacles. As President Bush said on Friday, U.S. policy will be one of zero tolerance.
In the days and weeks of inspections that lie ahead, the international community can expect Iraq to test its will. Backing Resolution 1441 with the threat of force will be the best way to not only eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction but also to achieve compliance with all U.N. resolutions and reach our ultimate goal: an Iraq that does not threaten its own people, its neighbors and the world.
President Bush and both houses of Congress have emphasized that the United States prefers to see Iraq disarm under U.N. auspices without a resort to force. We do not seek a war with Iraq, we seek its peaceful disarmament. But we will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council has confronted Saddam Hussein and his regime with a moment of truth. If they meet it with more lies, they will not escape the consequences.
( Powell is secretary of state.)
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