Davos, Switzerland Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing Iraq's lack of cooperation with U.N. inspectors, said Sunday he had lost faith in the inspectors' ability to conduct a definitive search for banned weapons programs.
A U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, however, was not imminent, Powell told business and political leaders, and he did not explicitly call for the inspections to end.
President Bush and heads of state were awaiting today's report by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to the U.N. Security Council. The summary of their findings is intended to help determine whether Iraq has programs for chemical, biological or nuclear arms.
By midafternoon Sunday, Blix had written a toughly worded 16-page report that he will deliver as a speech during the public portion of today's council meeting. "I have been working very hard and very carefully on the details," he told The Associated Press.
He wouldn't discuss the contents and would not comment on Powell's comments.
White House aides said Bush would listen with great interest to what the inspectors have to say as he prepares for his State of the Union address Tuesday night, in which he is expected to go into detail about why Washington considers Saddam a threat to the United States and other nations.
Polls show most Americans do not believe Bush has made his case for military conflict in Iraq, and the Senate's top Democrat said Sunday, "We ought not be rushing to war." South Dakota's Tom Daschle also urged the White House work harder to assemble an international coalition before deciding to go into Iraq.
Powell: "No great rush"
Powell said in his address at the World Economic Forum in this Swiss resort that only a strong international response will deter Saddam from sharing his weapons with terror groups or using them himself.
Even though Iraq has responded to weeks of inspections "with evasions and with lies," the secretary said, "We are in no great rush to judgment tomorrow or the day after, but clearly time is running out."
He also said the United States was willing to act by itself. "We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing," he said.
In Washington, Bush's chief of staff said that military force is "the last option, but it's one that the president will be ready to use."
And Andrew Card, raising the threat of a U.S. nuclear strike, warned: "Should Saddam Hussein have any thought that he would use a weapon of mass destruction, he should anticipate that the United States will use whatever means necessary to protect us and the world from a holocaust."
Powell said Iraq should not be in doubt that "if it does not disarm peacefully at this juncture, it will be disarmed at the end of the road."
War timeline uncertain
U.S. officials have said war against Iraq could be a month or more away. They said they believe that extra weeks of unsuccessful inspections could weaken the resolve of key Security Council members -- Russia, France and Germany -- to maintain their opposition to military force against Iraq.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington's staunchest ally on Iraq, said it should not take the inspectors months to determine whether Saddam's government was cooperating fully.
"I don't believe it will take them months to find out whether he is cooperating or not, but they should have whatever time they need," said Blair, who meets with Bush on Friday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said inspection team leaders might ask for additional time and resources to complete their assignment and should get that chance.
"We are talking about a question of weeks, about months, but not an infinite amount of time," Solana said.
"Without Iraq's full and active participation, the 100 or so inspectors would have to look under every roof and search in the back of every truck in a country the size of California," Powell said in his speech.
After weeks of inspections, he asked, "Where is the evidence that Iraq has destroyed the tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and botulinum we know it had before it expelled the previous inspectors?
"What happened to the 30,000 munitions capable of carrying chemical agents? The inspectors can account for only 16.
"How much more time does Iraq need to answer those questions?"
Powell said U.S. differences with France and Germany, which strongly oppose military action, "should not be equated with American unilateralism or American arrogance."
Around the world
In other developments Sunday:
l A newspaper owned by Saddam's elder son said American and British troops will return home in "plastic bags" should they invade Iraq.
l Inspectors made surprise visits to sites across Iraq, including the University of Mosul in the north, a military industrial plant, a medical institute and a research center dedicated to livestock diseases, according to the Information Ministry.
l Allied jets patrolling the southern flight-interdiction zone over Iraq struck five communication relay sites after Iraqi aircraft violated the zone, the U.S. military said.
l An Istanbul newspaper reported that Turkey's military would let up to 20,000 U.S. troops pass through the country into northern Iraq in the event of war. The report follows visits last week by the U.S. military chief of staff and the U.S. general in charge of NATO, of which Turkey is a member. There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials or the Pentagon.
l Saddam had a joint meeting of his ruling Baath Party's leaders and the Revolution Command Council, the official Iraqi News Agency reported. It said the meeting, also attended by other party and government officials, discussed "political conditions" and organizational party issues.
l Kuwait's foreign minister urged Saddam and his inner circle to quit power and go into exile to avert war. The minister also said Kuwait, which borders Iraq to the south, was obliged by U.N. resolutions to allow U.S. forces to launch military action from its territory if a decision is made to make war.
l Bahrain, home of the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf, announced it was deploying Patriot missile batteries to counter any possible long-range missile threats.
l Jordan's King Abdullah II said the flood of U.S. and British troops into the Gulf region means "it would take a miracle" to prevent war in Iraq. "We're a bit too little too late" for diplomatic efforts, Abdullah said at the Davos forum.