Powell: 'More Inspections Not the Answer'

The world should not be taken in by "tricks that are being played on us" by Saddam Hussein, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday, pressing reluctant U.S. allies to threaten force if Iraq does not disarm.

"The threat of force must remain," Powell said after chief U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei delivered their report to the Security Council. The presentation indicated that Iraq had complied with the probe to some degree, but had not provided a complete account of their weapons programs.

"We cannot wait for one of these terrible weapons to turn up in our cities," Powell told the Security Council, adding that Iraq was strengthening its links with terror groups.

"More inspections -- I am sorry -- are not the answer," Powell said.

After the session at the U.N., Powell said he would return to Washington and consult with President Bush and others and make a decision "in the not too distant future" about a new resolution. Later, in a television interview, he said the Iraq issue would be decided within "weeks."

The U.S. secretary of state listened impassively as a parade of speakers rejected the United States' position that Iraq has run out of time to comply with a string of U.N. disarmament resolutions. Loud applause greeted French and Russian pleas to allow weapons inspectors more time. There was no audible clapping for Powell.

France called for extended inspections and another report on March 14. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said force should be only be used as a last resort. "The option of inspections has not been taken to an end," he said.

After the session, Powell characterized the discussion as "a good spirited debate."

"People are free to express their emotions," Powell said. "We are friends," he said of de Villepin, citing 225 years of U.S.-French history.

But, Powell said, "sometimes there are fireworks."

Only British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain pledged clear support for the Bush administration. Other countries who are not members of the Security Council have also registered their support.

Powell left the chamber escorted by Straw, who in a vehement speech had said the 15 nations should "hold our nerve in the face of this tyrant."

Considering the council's response, it appeared highly unlikely that the United States could muster the nine votes needed to authorize war now.

The United States and Britain say they are willing to go to war without U.N. backing but would prefer to have it. U.N.-backing is particularly important for the British government, which faces strong public opposition to a war.

Earlier, Bush talked by telephone with the leaders of Estonia and Pakistan as part of his effort to build his case against Iraq and tried to shore up support from Turkey, which is looking for financial aid in exchange for allowing U.S. troops to use its facilities if there is war.

Bush's chief spokesman, Ari Fleischer, told reporters at the White House, "The world still has great cause for concern about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. That's what came out of New York today."

He would not shed any more light on Powell's statement that the U.S. has new evidence against Saddam.

"The world is watching the United Nations," Fleischer said.

Through the day, Powell planned to meet with all 14 foreign ministers of the Security Council nations, but France and Russia, with their power to veto a new U.N. resolution to authorize force, held the key to the Bush administration's effort to rid Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction.

No immediate move to ask the council to approve a fresh resolution authorizing force was anticipated. France, however, was believed to be weighing introducing a resolution to extend the inspections, and that might compel the United States and Britain to counter with one of their own providing for the use of force to disarm Iraq, a U.S. official said.

Powell met first with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and then saw Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov before the council went into session. They made no statements.

In a report to the council crediting Iraq with expanding its cooperation, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said he appreciated the report Powell provided to the council last week on evidence of Iraqi deception.

But Blix said the activity at a chemical installation that Powell described as deceptive "could have been routine activity,"

Powell, sitting at the U.S. table, quietly took notes on Blix's presentation.

The United States says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction in violation of several U.N. resolutions, an assertion denied by Baghdad. Bush has said war is his last resort to disarm Saddam while making it clear that time is running out on any other options. There are 130,000 U.S. land, sea and air forces massed in the Persian Gulf region awaiting Bush's decision.

Powell said this week he had no estimate of the cost of war with Iraq. But he did say he thought Iraq should be able to adjust quickly afterward -- in contrast to the slow pace of recovery in Afghanistan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.