A senior Iraqi official says chief U-N arms inspector Hans Blix could visit Baghdad on March 17th -- the deadline set by the United States and Britain for Iraq to prove it has disarmed or face war.
General Hussam Muhammed Amin made the statement at a news conference in the Iraqi capital on Sunday. A visit by Mr. Blix on that day could complicate U-S and British efforts to enforce the deadline set out in a proposed U-N Security Council resolution.
The United States and Britain are making a final push to win support for the resolution, which may come to a Security Council vote as early as Tuesday.
U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington has a chance to get the necessary votes for the measure to pass. The United States needs nine votes in the 15-member Security Council -- along with no vetoes by the Council's five permanent members.
However, Mr. Powell told the "Fox News Sunday" television program that he would not be surprised if France used its veto power as a permanent Council member to kill the resolution.
France has been leading the diplomatic effort to defeat the measure, backed by fellow permanent Security Council members Russia and China. All three countries remain staunchly opposed to war and want to give U-N weapons inspectors in Iraq more time.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin is on his way to Africa today (Sunday), where during a whirlwind tour he will urge Security Council members Angola, Cameroon, and Guinea to reject the U-S-backed proposal.
Meanwhile, Iraq continues to destroy missiles banned by the United Nations. A UN spokesman (Hiro Ueki) said in Baghdad (Sunday) that more al-Samoud-two missiles were being demolished, but did not give any details. At least 40 of the weapons have been destroyed since the operation began March first.
The al-Samoud missile exceeds the 150-kilometer range limit allowed by UN resolutions.