DAVOS, Switzerland – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that the world must use force if necessary to disarm Iraq, and warned "the going is getting tough."
"The burden is upon Iraq. It must comply, or it will be made to comply with military force," declared Powell upon arriving at the World Economic Forum, where 2,300 world political and business leaders have gathered for an annual meeting.
Later in the day, Powell met with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul to discuss that country's cooperation in a possible Iraqi military campaign, and with Switzerland's Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who offered to host an eleventh-hour summit between the U.S. and Iraq.
The United States has faced intense international criticism for its mounting threats to attack Iraq. Powell, the most senior U.S. official to attend the meetings, said he was bringing to the conference "a message of American determination to deal with an important threat represented by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction."
The secretary of state did not mention a timetable, however. But the U.S. government, facing pleas at home and abroad for a go-slow approach on forcibly disarming Iraq, may consider giving U.N. inspectors more time to find weapons of mass destruction, a senior U.S. official revealed Friday.
Powell said the week ahead will be important because U.N. inspectors will be presenting their 60-day report on the resumption of inspections to the Security Council on Monday. President Bush will discuss Iraq in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, and Powell said there will then be consultations with leaders around the world.
France, Germany and Russia all have argued that the inspectors be given more time to determine whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or programs to build them. And on Friday, more than 120 congressional Democrats sent President Bush a letter urging him to give the inspection process more time.
"We will determine what steps are appropriate at that time to move forward, keeping in mind always that the goal is disarmament of Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction," Powell said.
He reiterated that Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration does not account for biological and chemical agents, chemical shells and nuclear documents — each of which "has the potential to kill thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings."
"This is not the time for the international community, for the United Nations, to step back from the solemn responsibility it undertook in Resolution 1441 to disarm Iraq," the secretary said, "and that message I hope to deliver."
Powell's meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul was held against a background of heavy U.S. pressure on Turkey to allow use of its bases to attack Iraq, its neighbor. Public opposition to war is strong in Turkey.
Afterwards, Powell was noncommittal about the meeting. The Turks, he said, "understand our needs and I have a complete understanding of their political situation."
Powell's meeting with the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey resulted in the European country's offer to host and moderate a meeting between the U.S. and Iraq that would hopefully stave off a military confrontation. In 1991, then Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tareq Aziz met in Switzerland in an unsuccesful last-ditch effort to avert the Gulf War. While he thanked Calmy-Rey for the offer, Powell said "no talks are planned."
En route to Switzerland, Powell said the United States has been assembling a coalition of countries willing to assist an American-led war effort regardless of what the Security Council does.
"I can rattle off at least a dozen from memory," Powell said, without providing specifics.
A senior U.S. official, discussing the administration's options on Iraq, said Friday that much will depend on the report that weapons inspectors are scheduled to give the Security Council. A decision will be based on whether these searches so far have been useful, this official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
So far the inspectors have turned up few of the thousands of chemical and biological weapons the administration has insisted that President Saddam Hussein has concealed.
Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that agency head Mohamed ElBaradei and chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will give the Security Council a "B" report card. The office later qualified that characterization as limited to Baghdad's response to inspectors' questions and requests for information.
Blix, in fact, said his report will be a "mixed bag," noting Baghdad's opposition to letting American U-2 reconnaissance planes aid in the inspection effort.
The U.S. official told The Associated Press that if the inspectors disclose new evidence Monday, that would influence a decision to keep hunting for illicit weapons of mass destruction.
Questioned about U.S. options, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged that "there are ideas flying out there."
A White House official said a cutoff date for inspections had never been set by the administration and that U.S. policy on inspections had not changed.
It is a question of Iraqi compliance, not time, and events will drive the timetable, said this official, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said Monday marked the beginning of the final phase of disarming Iraq, and that has not changed. Another administration official said that Bush had never considered military action immediately after the inspectors report Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.