PARIS – French President Jacques Chirac on Friday said he supported U.N. inspectors who were asking for more time to determine whether Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
"Inspectors have asked for more time to go on working," Chirac said Friday after meeting with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix in Paris. "It is only wise to agree to this request. Give them more time to work to bring about a more detailed response."
Speaking at a news conference with Chirac, Blix said more cooperation from Iraq was needed.
"We need more accurate cooperation for their sake and for the sake of peace," he said.
Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. nuclear agency, are to provide a formal report on Iraq's cooperation with inspections on Jan. 27. Beforehand, they will travel to Iraq to meet with officials in Baghdad.
Washington is pressing the council to stop the inspectors from producing another report scheduled for the end of March. President Bush this week warned that "time is running out" for Saddam Hussein to disarm.
ElBaradei said in Moscow on Thursday that a full complement of inspectors was now in place in Iraq and their work would accelerate, helped by newly provided intelligence pinpointing sites to search.
In Vienna, however, IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that ElBaradei would tell the U.N. Security Council that the agency needed extra time to come to a conclusion on Iraq's military activities.
ElBaradei, who also spoke at the press conference Friday, said that in their talks all three agreed that inspectors needed more time and that war should only be a last resort.
"We all agree this is the worst case scenario," he said. "If we can avoid that, even spending a few more months, it will be time well spent."
"Both Dr. Blix and I are hoping to say to the Security Council that we need time to have the inspections take their natural course."
In the past, both Blix and ElBaradei have said Iraq's weapons declaration is incomplete -- failing in particular to support its claims to have destroyed missiles, warheads and chemical agents such as VX nerve gas.
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday after briefing European Union officials, Blix warned Iraq that it had no alternative but to improve its cooperation with the weapons inspections if it wants to avoid war.