WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell forged an agreement Friday with the chief U.N. weapons inspector to defer searching for illicit arms in Iraq until tough new rules are imposed.
Powell acknowledged it might take a long time to persuade the Security Council to adopt a resolution proposed by the United States. But, he said, "I'm confident we'll find a way to resolve the differences that exist."
Chief among them is refusal of France and Russia to threaten Iraq with war if it refuses to disarm. Powell said the warning was essential and must be adopted.
The chief U.N. Inspector, Hans Blix, registered his support.
"We are agreed," Blix said. "There has to be constant pressure for Iraq to comply."
President Bush reached for new levels of rhetoric to denounce Saddam, paralleling the furious words his father used before going to war with Iraq in 1991.
At a fund-raiser in Boston, Bush called Saddam a "cold-blooded" killer, a phrase he repeatedly has used to denounce the terrorists linked to the 9-11 attacks on the United States.
In a statement that seemed designed to rally the American people to support war, Bush said "for the sake of our freedom, for the sake of peace, if the United Nations won't make the decision, if Saddam Hussein continues to lie and deceive, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm this man before he harms America."
Bush will make a nationwide speech on Iraq from Cincinnati on Monday, the White House said.
The CIA, in a report from U.S. intelligence agencies, backed the Bush administration's contention that Iraq had significant caches of dangerous weapons despite numerous international searches.
In a new report, the agencies said Iraq has biological and chemical weapons and some long-range missiles, but probably no nuclear weapons. "If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade," the unclassified report concluded.
Blix has already arranged with Iraq to resume inspections in about two weeks. But after meeting with Powell and other senior Bush administration officials, he said: "It would be awkward for us to go in and then find there was a new resolution."
Powell, who had been trying to put the brakes on the return of the inspection teams until they were promised unfettered access to all sites, welcomed Blix's comments.
"If the inspectors are going to go back in, they have to go back in without any restrictions on what they can do," Powell said.
Mohamed ElBaradei, whose International Atomic Energy Agency is in charge of nuclear inspections, said after the hour-long meeting at the State Department that he hoped the Security Council would move promptly.
"We have to go back and go back quickly to make sure Iraq has not renewed its nuclear weapons program," he told reporters. "We all agree that the endgame should be a complete disarmament of Iraq. That's what we are all working for."
The United States has been pressing other Security Council members for a new resolution that would require Iraq to come up with a full inventory of its weapons program, with a provision for the inspections to be enforced with military force if necessary.
But so far, that view has met resistance from Russia and France.
Blix said, however, that over the past few days he had begun to see what he called "convergence."
"We hope ... it's not very long to a new resolution," Blix said.
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz also attended the meeting.
Blix's comments appeared to support Powell's hopes of delaying the start of searches until the United States is able to persuade the Security Council to adopt new rules that would open Saddam's palaces to the inspectors -- and threaten Iraq with war if it does not disarm.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan talked twice to Powell on the telephone Friday and backed Powell in his plea to delay the searches that Blix agreed this week with Iraq would begin later in the month.
"He has got his men ready, but as the council is discussing further guidance," Annan said, "it would be appropriate for him to know that further guidance before he resumes, and I hope that will be forthcoming shortly."
As Powell engaged in a flurry of telephone calls with Annan and foreign ministers, and U.S. diplomats worked the corridors of the United Nations, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed optimism about the outcome of the U.S. drive for a new resolution.
"We've tried not to handicap this every day, but we are certainly optimistic," Boucher said.
France says the Security Council should call for new inspections in one resolution, but defer consideration of using force to a second resolution, if Iraq does not comply.
But Boucher said that while consultations continue "at this point we remain firmly committed to seeking one resolution."
While dissenters appear to be losing ground in Washington, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who is known to carry a well-thumbed copy of the Constitution with him, said only Congress could declare war.
"This Congress ought not turn this fateful determination, this decision, over to any president, over to any one man," he said.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and former Navy secretary, defended the need to move quickly in support of the president. Why give the president authority to use force against Iraq at this time? Warner asked. "The answer is simple: Enough is enough."
Saying that the fight against terrorism was more important than fighting Saddam, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., said Friday he will submit a proposal to broaden the Iraq resolution to give Bush more power to attack terrorist groups.
The Senate debated the Iraq war resolution through the day, but took no votes. Both the Senate and House were expected to vote on the resolution -- which would give Bush wide latitude in confronting Iraq -- next week.