NEW YORK – A U.S. senator says U.S. officials have clear evidence that Iraq poses a danger of exporting chemical and biological weapons, but most of the evidence is classified.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is chairman of the Appropriations and Governmental Affairs subcommittees and is a member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He said that every day in Washington the intelligence community is making information available to the top Congressional leadership.
Cochran praised President Bush's appearance before the United Nations Thursday and his efforts to keep congressional leaders informed about evidence against Iraq.
But not every congressional member is saying the United States should hurry into a war.
James Abourezk, a former U.S. senator from South Dakota, said Saturday in Baghdad that America shouldn’t attack Iraq without provocation. Abourezk was speaking to reporters after he, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. and two other Americans met with Iraqi Health Minister Omed Medhat Mubarak.
The four-person delegation said it intended to push for peace as well as the return of U.N. weapons inspectors. It is the first time in several years that a sitting U.S. legislator has visited Iraq, which has been under U.N. sanctions since it invaded Kuwait in 1990.
"We are on a humanitarian mission ... not only to convince the Iraqi people that the American people are concerned with their suffering, but also to show that the American people, their vast majority, are peace-waging individuals," Rahall told reporters.
Iraq has barred inspectors, who are charged with verifying the elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, since 1998.
After the meeting with the health minister, Abourezk criticized moves toward an attack on Iraq and said the United States was motivated by Israel.
"If America launched an attack on somebody without any provocation and declaration of war, then it will lose its moral standards," Abourezk said.
"Bush, pushed by Israel, is trying to build a case against Iraq without evidence," he said.
Israel has accused Iraq of sponsoring terror by financing the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and trying to smuggle weapons into the Palestinian areas.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Foreign Minister made clear Saturday his country would not allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return without other issues being resolved at the same time, despite U.S. threats of an attack.
Naji Sabri, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session, met French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, one of many officials he is meeting with in an apparent effort to avert U.N. approval of any American military action.
"Inspectors are part of Security Council resolutions and we call for the respect of Security Council resolutions," Sabri said. "Resolutions consist of other topics -- not only return of inspectors."
Denying Iraq was putting conditions on the return of arms inspectors, out of the country for nearly four years, Sabri said: "He who calls for singling out one issue and neglecting other issues and other provisions in Security Council resolutions is the one who is putting conditions."
Sabri said Iraq wants the UN Security Council to implement resolutions calling for stability and respect for sovereignty in that country and halting "continuing aggression" by British and American planes on the Iraqi population for the last 11 years. Security Council resolutions, he said, that call for "putting an end to the sanctions which are killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis."
Back in Baghdad Saturday, before the meeting with the health minister, Rahall said that if he were to meet Iraqi officials, "it is my desire to stress upon the Iraqi government and its president that they must accept unconditional access to their country by U.N. weapons inspectors."
Rahall said the return of inspectors would be a step toward peace, but he declined to say if it would put an end to Bush's desire to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"I cannot speak on behalf of President Bush. I am not here as a secretary of state or a weapons inspector. I am here as individual member of congress who has questions that I would like to get answers to," Rahall said.
The delegation visited al-Mansour Children's Hospital in Baghdad, where Rahall met leukemia patients and gave toys to the children.
The delegation' s trip is sponsored by the Institute of Public Accuracy, a Washington-based group of analysts.
The other delegates are Nick Solomon, the institute's head, and James Jennings, the president of Conscience International -- an Atlanta-based aid and rights group.
Meanwhile, it's likely the Defense Department will relocate a regional military headquarters to the Persian Gulf from its current location in Florida, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld probably would decide to put a forward command center for the U.S. Central Command at a large air base in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. Central Command officials announced this week that about 600 core staff would move from the command's current headquarters in Tampa to Qatar in November for a training exercise.
"It just makes sense to have your headquarters in your area of responsibility," Myers said.
The Qatar location is significant because the United States has been building a modern air operations center there as an alternative to the one in Saudi Arabia.
If Saudi Arabia were to prohibit the United States from using its command post to coordinate attacks on Iraq, the facilities at Qatar's al-Udeid air base could serve the same purpose. There is some question, however, about the Qatari government's willingness to play that role.
Myers also said the United States has evidence Iraq has mobile laboratories to produce chemical and biological weapons.
"There is evidence to support mobile production capability for chemical and biological weapons," Myers said, saying the creation of such weapons can be done in small locations. "And the fact that you can put it on wheels makes it a lot easier to hide from people that might be looking for it."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.