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US Considers Giving Iraq Inspectors More Time - 2003-01-25


Bush Administration officials say they may agree to give inspectors more time to find evidence Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.

Reports from Washington quote officials as saying the United States may be willing to wait several more weeks before pressing the U-N Security Council for military action.

The officials say much depends on the inspectors report to the Council Monday on the first two months of inspections.

The reports come amid growing foreign and domestic criticism that the Bush administration is rushing toward war. France, Russia and China -- which have veto power in the Security Council -- are among countries that want more time for inspections before any military action is taken. Many U-S lawmakers also want inspectors to have more time.

Also, the Washington Post reports that a U-S invasion force for Iraq will not be ready until late February at the earliest. The newspaper says several Army and Air Force divisions considered key to any attack plan have not yet received deployment orders. Others, with orders, have not yet started to move.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office says he held a long telephone conversation with President Bush Friday. A spokesman says the leaders agreed that Saddam Hussein must be made to give up illegal weapons, and that if he does not cooperate he will have to be disarmed by force.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi believed to be a scientist was seen arriving with an Iraqi official today (Saturday) at the U-N offices in Baghdad. The man left about 90 minutes later. A U-N spokesman in Baghdad declined to comment.

Earlier, Iraq's foreign ministry said inspectors had asked to interview three Iraqi scientists today.

Washington has called earlier refusals by Iraq to allow private interviews with its scientists an unacceptable act of defiance.

President Bush is expected to outline his policy toward Iraq during his State of the Union address Tuesday. He has threatened to take unilateral military action against Iraq, if Baghdad does not disarm. Iraq denies having any banned weapons programs.

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