Two key U-N Security Council members repeated their opposition Wednesday to launching military action against Iraq at this time.
France and Germany said everything must be done to prevent war in Iraq. In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac said after a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder the two nations are united in their opposition to war in Iraq.
The United States has rejected calls to give U-N weapons inspectors in Iraq more time to find weapons of mass destruction.
Britain openly supports the U-S position that Iraq is not cooperating with U-N inspectors. Both countries are continuing a military buildup in the Persian Gulf region in preparation for a possible war against Iraq.
Chief U-N weapons inspector Hans Blix is to present a progress report on the inspections to the Security Council January 27th.
U-S Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage -- in a policy speech Tuesday -- said the world's options for peacefully dealing with President Saddam are nearly exhausted. Mr. Armitage and his Russian counterpart (Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov) opened two days of talks Wednesday on a variety of matters, including the Iraq crisis.
Meanwhile, Iraq says it shot down a pilotless U-S plane -- known as a drone -- which entered the country Wednesday from Kuwait.
Iraq's official (INA) News Agency said anti-aircraft fire downed what it said was a U-S intelligence plane that violated Iraq's international air space.
The U-S military did not confirm Iraq's claim.
U-N arms experts in Iraq Wednesday searched suspected chemical and biological weapons and missile sites.
Teams of inspectors visited the University of Basra near the Kuwaiti border, the Technology Institute in Baghdad and two missile facilities south of the Iraqi capital.