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Gary Younge
UN majority asks for more time

Eight out of 10 countries who have spoken at a closed session of the United Nations security council are refusing to bow to pressure from Washington, and are arguing that the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq need more time. The remaining five, including the US and Britain have yet to speak.

As tension mounted ahead of US secretary of state Colin Powell's presentation before the council next week, Russia, China, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Guinea, Cameroon and Syria all argued that time should be allowed to pursue peaceful disarmament through further weapons inspections, council diplomats said. Only Spain and Bulgaria indicated that they wanted to see a quick change in Iraq's attitude.

"The majority of the council thinks we should continue inspections," said the French representative, Jean-Marc de la Sablière. "This is what they think today and I think it is important to say so."

Russia's UN envoy, Sergei Lavrov, demanded that Mr Powell bring "undeniable proof" of Iraqi banned weapons. "We believe that inspections must continue, and that if Iraq stops cooperating with inspectors and starts blocking inspections we must look into it," he said.

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