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Powell plots diplomatic blitz at U.N.

WASHINGTON — In a two-day diplomatic blitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell will try to overcome U.N. resistance to using force to disarm Iraq — warning that holding back would send a "terrible message" to tyrants everywhere.

He also warned again that if the U.N. Security Council does not act, the United States and its coalition partners are prepared to disarm Iraq by force and take responsibility for Iraq's future after a war.

In more intensified activity against Iraq, the United States ordered two U.N.-based Iraqi diplomats to leave the country and asked 60 countries to expel alleged Iraqi agents who could attack American interests overseas.

The government has identified 300 Iraqis in the 60 countries, said the U.S. officials, asking not to be identified. Some are operating as diplomats out of Iraqi embassies, and foreign governments are expected to comply with the U.S. request, the officials said.

President Bush scheduled a prime-time news conference Thursday as part of his effort to prepare the nation for the prospect of war.

Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush's opening statement in the East Room would address "the successes in the war against terror as well as the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein." He said Bush has not decided whether to wage war.

During his fourth trip to the United Nations in less than two months, Powell is scheduled Friday to make what could be a final speech to the council urging approval of a U.S.-British-Spanish resolution supporting the use of force.

In advance of the speech, Powell arranged for meetings beginning later Thursday in New York with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani and Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio.

Powell will speak Friday after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix reports to the council on Iraq's cooperation in the search for illegal chemical and biological weapons.

Blix said Wednesday that Iraq is now providing "a great deal more" cooperation and painted a more positive picture of Iraq's disarmament efforts than he did a week ago. He said he would welcome the continuation of U.N. inspections for several more months and mapped out plans well into the summer.

Calling Iraq's disclosures of a handful of missiles and other weapons information "too little, too late gestures," Powell said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein still has not made a decision to disarm.

Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the top Democrat on Senate Armed Services Committee, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have shared only a small fraction of the sites Iraq identified as highly suspicious for weapons of mass destruction. That information contradicts public statements by CIA Director George Tenet that all such information has been shared with U.N. inspectors, he said.

"If we have not shared the suspect sites, we undermine our own case at the Security Council," Levin said. He said it would be a "nightmare scenario" if Iraq were to use biological or chemical weapons hidden at one of the sites that had not been shared.

For the council to turn down the resolution and depend on further inspections to disarm Iraq would send a "terrible message" to tyrants who seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Powell said in a speech Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"Divisions among us — and there are divisions among us — if these divisions continue, will only convince Saddam Hussein that he is right," Powell said.

With a vote on the resolution expected next week, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia said they would block any attempt to get U.N. approval for war with Iraq.

"We will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes resorting to force," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Wednesday in Paris at a news conference with Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov of Russia and Joschka Fischer of Germany.

Either France or Russia could kill the resolution with a veto. Other council members normally allied with the United States have said more time should be allowed for weapons inspections.

Council diplomats said Wednesday that Britain was preparing an amendment that would extend the time for inspections. There was no immediate indication whether that would be acceptable to the United States.

Powell said the inspections were futile, and that Iraq's intelligence agency in late January had taken chemical and biological agents "to areas far away from Baghdad near the Syrian and Turkish borders in order to conceal them."

President Bush spoke by telephone Wednesday with leaders of two countries whose votes he needs, Cameroon and Pakistan.

He also met Cardinal Pio Laghi, an emissary from Pope John Paul II who said the pope's message was that a war would be a "defeat for humanity" and would be neither morally nor legally justified. Bush said removing Saddam from power would make the world more peaceful.

A senior defense official said U.S. and British planes were flying several hundred sorties a day in the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the flights, which included F-16 and other attack planes as well as surveillance, refueling and other support aircraft, were intended to keep Iraqi air defenders off guard and mask the start of any war.