Britain called the evidence "powerful," and Spain said the presentation was "compelling." France and Germany said they needed more time to study the evidence.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressing the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, presented tape recordings, satellite photos and statements from informants that he said constituted "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Saddam is concealing weapons of mass destruction.

But the elaborate, 80-minute "sound-and-light" show, as some diplomats referred to it, got mixed reviews from council members, and it didn't appear to change many minds.

"The dangers of a military action and its consequences are plain to see," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency. "We must continue to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis."

France, which has hinted it might use its veto power to block any new resolution authorizing force against Iraq, also maintained its opposition to war right now.

"The use of force can only be a final recourse," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said. "We must move on to a new stage and further strengthen the inspections."

De Villepin, who offered specific proposals to beef up inspections -- including doubling or tripling the number of inspectors -- said France would carefully review the evidence provided by Powell.

Powell won the support of 10 former communist countries, seven of them getting ready to join U.S.-led NATO, In a joint letter, they offered "to contribute to an international coalition to enforce its provisions and the disarmament of Iraq," saying they remembered all too well what it was like to live under a dictatorship.

"The clear and present danger posed by Saddam Hussein's regime requires a united response from the community of democracies," the foreign ministers of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania wrote.

For Russia, Powell's presentation only strengthened its belief that Iraq should be disarmed through inspections. Russian officials gave no hint that they saw anything in the presentation to warrant military action.

"The information provided today by the U.S. secretary of state once again convincingly indicates the fact that the activities of the international inspectors in Iraq must be continued," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said.

Britain and Spain, both expected to join a coalition against Iraq, came out in strong support of Powell's presentation.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Powell made a "most powerful" case against Iraq. "Time is now very short. If noncooperation continues, this council must meet its responsibilities," he said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio also called Powell's evidence "compelling" but said: "There still is a chance for peace if Iraq radically modifies its lack of compliance."

The majority of the Security Council members said Iraq must show it is cooperating and provide inspectors with answers to questions Powell raised in his presentation as soon as possible.

"As long as there still is the slightest hope for a political settlement, we must exert our utmost effort to achieve that. China is ready to join others in working toward this direction," Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said.

Reaction outside the Security Council also was strong.

Canada appeared to move closer to the U.S. position but said it would wait for a council decision.

"We are not at a point where there is a need to use force," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said in Ottawa. "However, we don't have much time left."

Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Powell's speech, saying he had "laid bare the true nature of Saddam Hussein's regime and ... exposed the great dangers that emanate from this regime to the region and to the world."

Iraqi officials called the presentation a collection of "stunts" and "special effects" from "unknown sources" and was aimed at undermining the work of the U.N. arms inspectors.

Many in the Arab world reacted to the speech with skepticism and claimed that the Bush administration was preparing for a fight regardless of international opinion.

"After this speech, the timetable for the war is shortened incredibly," said Saad Faraj, an Iraqi-American citizen in Jordan.

Others echoed Iraq's claims that recorded interceptions of conversations between Iraqi military officers and other pieces of evidence could have been forged.

In Norway, Mullah Krekar, the exiled Kurdish leader of Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group in northern Iraq, rejected Powell's claims that his organization provided refuge to Al Qaeda members.

Endorsement, however, came from Kuwait, a close U.S. ally that was occupied by Iraq from 1990-91, when a U.S.-led coalition ousted Saddam Hussein's army.