U.S. to propose final tests for Saddam Steven R. Weisman New York Times Published 02/16/2003 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seeking better proof that Iraq continues to defy U.N. weapons inspectors, the Bush administration plans a set of specific tests in the next two weeks of Saddam Hussein's willingness to disarm, administration officials said Saturday. At the same time, despite growing resistance at the United Nations to authorizing force against Iraq, the administration intends to put forward, as early as Tuesday, a resolution that would declare Iraq out of compliance with disarmament and authorize "serious consequences" if it continues on that path. U.S. officials hope that skeptical nations will support the resolution if Iraq fails the new tests. "Within days you will have a decision by the United States on an early resolution at the United Nations," an official said. Meanwhile, he said, U.N. weapons inspectors are preparing "benchmark" tests for Iraq that could also be presented this week. The administration's determination to maintain pressure on Iraq, but to continue doing so through the United Nations, was also signaled Saturday by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. Speaking before a Labor meeting in Glasgow as antiwar demonstrations spread across Europe, Blair harshly criticized Saddam, saying that if 1 million protesters marched, "that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started." Still, Blair said, "I continue to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the U.N." Administration officials said that President Bush will confer over this three-day weekend with Secretary of State Colin Powell and that they will talk with allies to decide the wording and timing of the next proposal to the Security Council. No less important Despite what appeared to be a setback at the United Nations on Friday for the U.S.-led effort to win international backing for military action against Iraq, officials say Britain and the United States have decided that the new resolution will specifically threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" -- code words for the use of force. The threat will be made in response to Iraq's failure to comply with arms inspections, the officials said. The other part of the administration's strategy is no less important, especially given the opposition to force by France and other countries, officials said. This relates to its plans to present Iraq with specific tasks in the next two weeks that would make clear its willingness to cooperate. These tasks would include allowing weapons inspectors to interview Iraqi scientists without government "minders" present, the destruction of missiles that were recently found to have greater range than the United Nations allows, and permitting unconditional overflights by American, European and Russian reconnaissance aircraft. "We are looking for some early benchmarks, specific things that the Iraqis will have to do to show full compliance," an administration official said. He said that Hans Blix agreed to setting such benchmarks when he met with Powell on Friday after the contentious Security Council session. U.S. and British planners hope that once it is obvious Iraq is refusing to carry out these tasks, Blix will tell the United Nations forthrightly that Iraq is failing to comply with the disarmament demands of last November's Security Council Resolution 1441. On Friday, Blix delivered an assessment of Iraqi cooperation that was interpreted very differently by the United States and by France and other opponents of using force. The ambiguity of Blix's statement, coupled with his rebuttal of certain information presented by the United States as evidence of Iraqi misconduct, dismayed many in the U.S. and British governments. Blix's concluding statement on Friday was that "the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" were "forthcoming." U.S. officials seized on this wording as proof of their contention that Iraq has fallen far short of the "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" that was specified in Resolution 1441. The French, on the other hand, took from this same language the suggestion that without such cooperation, inspections could still work but that they might take longer. Â© Copyright 2003 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.