A senior U-S diplomat says the United States has 'very convincing evidence' that Iraq has maintained a program to produce weapons of mass destruction.
John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for international security and arms control, says the Iraqi weapons program includes long-range ballistic missiles prohibited to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. Speaking to reporters today (Friday) in Tokyo, he says Washington will reveal the information at the appropriate time and place.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office says it is not surprised at a B-B-C report saying Iraq is equipping elite soldiers with protective chemical warfare suits and a drug that can counter the effects of nerve gas.
The report is based on notes allegedly passed from members of the Iraqi military to the Iraqi National Coalition -- a group of former Iraqi military officers now opposed to Saddam Hussein. The B-B-C says three different experts verified the authenticity of the hand-written, Arabic-language documents.
Experts say if the report is true, it suggests Iraq is ready to use chemical weapons against invading troops.
Members of the United Nations Security Council remain split on whether military action should be used to make Iraq comply with U-N disarmament demands. The United States and Britain continue to build up their forces in the Persian Gulf region in preparation for a possible attack.
But spokesmen for Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reiterated today that the two countries want the Iraqi crisis resolved through diplomacy. Mr. Putin and Mr. Schroeder talked by telephone early in the day.
Germany says it supports a declaration by Turkey and Iraq's other neighbors, urging Baghdad to cooperate fully with U-N weapons inspectors.
Thursday, foreign ministers of six Middle Eastern countries meeting in Istanbul called on Iraq to prevent war by complying with U-N disarmament resolutions. The declaration also stressed the need for Security Council approval of any military action against Iraq.
The latest diplomatic efforts to avoid war come as chief U-N weapons inspector Hans Blix prepares to report to the Security Council on Monday about the ongoing search for banned weapons in Iraq.