MUNICH, Germany—Defeating Iraq would be quick work that wouldn't require full American mobilization, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday as he launched a European visit to secure broader support for a war.
"It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months," he told a town meeting at the American air base at Aviano, Italy.
The momentum toward war continued Friday as the Pentagon dispatched a fifth aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, from the Pacific Ocean toward the Persian Gulf and President Bush prodded the U.N. Security Council to take tough action.
"This is a defining moment for the U.N. Security Council," Bush said. "If the Security Council were to allow a dictator to lie and deceive, the Security Council will be weak."
The United States and Britain may ask the Security Council for another resolution against Iraq, one that would more directly authorize military action. Before taking such action, diplomats for both nations say, they will wait to hear a report next Friday from Blix and other U.N. arms inspectors who are returning to Iraq this weekend.
In Iraq, U.N. inspectors interviewed three scientists in private Friday, a day after their first opportunity to talk to an Iraqi scientist without government minders in attendance. Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix welcomed the private interviews and noted that the United Nations has demanded free access to all Iraqi scientists involved in the production of weapons.
Jean-David Levitte, France's ambassador to the United States, said that at least 10 of the 15 members of the Security Council wanted to give inspectors more time.
"Saddam (Hussein) is in his box and the box is now closed with the inspections," Levitte said Friday.
"An alternative to war still exists," said French President Jacques Chirac. "The decision to resort to war cannot be made lightly."
But retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who earlier had expressed reservations about the lack of proof that Iraq was hiding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, told Knight Ridder he was convinced by Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation Wednesday to the Security Council.
Asked if he thought Powell had presented sufficient evidence to justify military action, Schwarzkopf, who led American and coalition forces in driving Saddam's army out of Kuwait in 1991, said: "Unequivocally yes!"
"In the past I told people that I believed the government had classified information on the Iraqi weapons program and one day they would release it," Schwarzkopf said. "They just did."
Rumsfeld on Friday warned Iraqi commanders of the consequences if they ordered chemical or biological weapons attacks on allied troops.
"Saddam cannot use chemical or biological weapons himself," Rumsfeld said at a joint news conference in Rome with Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino. "He has to use his chain of command and military officers. We are sending very clear messages to people around him that they will be well advised not to use those weapons, and in the event they do, they would wish they hadn't."
With public opinion in Europe behind giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time, Rumsfeld talked about how he would convince Europeans that military action is needed.
"Had we had information before Sept. 11 that the attack was about to take place, wouldn't we have had an obligation to try and stop it? " he asked in Rome. "Now, instead of an attack where 3,000 people were killed, imagine an attack with a biological weapon that would kill 30,000 or 300,000 innocent people. The risks of not acting may be vastly greater than the risk of acting."
Rumsfeld reiterated his view that nonmilitary options with regard to Iraq had been all but exhausted. "I think the world feels a sense of momentum," he said after meeting privately with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "It's been a long road, 12 years. We've seen enormous efforts by the international community of a diplomatic nature, and they've failed."
Rumsfeld then flew to Germany for an annual security conference, where his reception is likely to be chillier than it was in Italy.
He is to meet over the weekend with his German counterpart, Peter Struck. One goal will be to convince the Germans to authorize NATO to plan for Turkey's defense in case of a war with Iraq. Germany, France and Belgium have been blocking the loan of surveillance aircraft, Patriot missiles and other means of defending Turkey, a NATO ally that borders Iraq. NATO leaders want to settle the issue Monday.
Munich police are expecting more than 13,000 protesters, the State Department has warned Americans to avoid the city, and German officials are seething after a series of barbs from Rumsfeld aimed at their opposition to any military action against Saddam.
On Wednesday, Rumsfeld lumped Germany in with Cuba and Libya as countries that the United States can't count on for help in a war against Iraq.
Coming on the heels of his comment two weeks ago that Germany and France were part of "old Europe," his words provoked a furious reaction.
"That's not the way to treat partners," retired Gen. Klaus Naumann, a former chair of NATO's military committee, told Germany's ZDF Television.
Karsten Voigt, the German government's adviser on U.S. relations, reminded Rumsfeld that German soldiers were keeping the peace in the Balkans and Afghanistan. "Whoever fails to mention that publicly is making a political mistake, I think," he told Bayerischen Rundfunk Radio.
Rumsfeld has been twisting the rhetorical knife ever since German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rode to re-election in September by tapping into widespread national opposition to a U.S.-led war. Schroeder promised never to join any military "adventure" in Iraq. What's more, his justice minister likened Bush's tactics to Hitler's, and the German leader's tepid response infuriated U.S. officials.
(Rubin reported from Berlin and Munich; Dilanian reported from Rome. Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Joseph L. Galloway in Washington contributed to this report.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.