Foreign ministers from war opponents France, Russia and Germany flew to New York to address the United Nations in a symbolic display that likely will have no effect on Washington's resolve to topple Saddam. The harsh words directed towards the United States in protest of impending war fell on deaf ears as the meeting wrapped up.
"For us, the United Nations is the key authority," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said late Tuesday. "War is not justified."
But war is imminent. Fischer, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and Russia's Igor Ivanov nonetheless addressed the Security Council on wartime humanitarian relief and U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's key disarmament tasks.
Blix said inspectors were withdrawn Tuesday under threat of war but had uncovered no evidence that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, or that Iraq would use them.
"It's unlikely they will do that because world public opinion, which they study quite a lot," is against immediate war, Blix said.
Asked why Saddam's government would care about world opinion in the face of an American-led attack, he replied: "Some people care about their reputations even after death."
However, predicting "imminent disaster" for the people of Iraq, Secretary-General Kofi Annan implored the United States and its allies to not forsake humanitarian aid while waging war.
"It is the plight of the Iraqi people which is now my most immediate concern," Annan said at the close of a U.N. Security Council meeting designed to protest a U.S.-led war.
"This is a sad day for the United Nations," Annan said. "I know that millions of people around the world share this sense of disappointment and are deeply alarmed."
Before Annan closed the three-hour meeting, the world's staunchest opponents of invading Iraq told the Security Council there was no proof Saddam Hussein posed a threat.
"If today, we really had indisputable facts demonstrating that from the territory of Iraq there was a direct threat to the United States," Ivanov said Wednesday, his country would use "any means" to help.
But no proof has been produced, Ivanov said, and the Security Council had been brushed aside.
His determined remarks were coordinated with the foreign ministers of France and Germany, who also addressed the council in a symbolic protest that was highly unlikely to affect Washington's resolve to topple the Iraqi president.
"Germany emphatically rejects the impending war," Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. Iraqi was slow and misleading during the inspection process, but can such tactics "seriously be regarded as grounds for war?" he asked.
De Villepin said military might against Iraq would encourage, not eliminate, terrorism.
"The outbreak of force in this area, which is so unstable, can exacerbate the tensions and fractures on which the terrorists feed," he said. The Security Council, he said, must now look toward humanitarian aid. His remarks received applause.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte asked for swift Security Council support to "ensure continued delivery of key humanitarian supplies, particularly food and medicines to Iraq."
Negroponte said the United States is talking with Security Council members about making adjustments to the Iraqi oil-for-food program, which feeds more than 60 percent of the Iraqi population. But Tuesday's withdrawal of United Nations workers from Iraq means the program is, at least for now, nonexistent.
Iraqi envoy Mohammed Al-Douri called the suspension "truly astonishing."
"This decision to withdraw will pave the way for the United States and Britain to (wage war) faster than expected," he said.
Blix addressed the packed council chamber and presented, as expected, his "work schedule" of disarmament tasks.
It was a procedural action that carried no weight.
In numerous appearances before the council since inspections resumed in November, Blix seesawed from criticizing Iraq's cooperation to questioning U.S. evidence allegedly pointing to weapons sites and Iraqi deception.
He said from the outset that Iraq had provided full access to all the sites inspectors wanted to see, but faulted the regime for failing to do more. Blix claimed Baghdad's 12,000-page weapons declaration was unhelpful, demanded more access to scientists and permission to use U-2 surveillance planes over Iraq.
Over the four months of work in Iraq, Blix acknowledged increasing Iraqi cooperation, but still found fault. His team was only able to conduct a few private interviews, and he never received adequate documentation of Iraq's avowed destruction of chemical and biological stockpiles.
However, in his final appearance, he did credit Baghdad for complying with his order to destroy the only illegal weapons actually found — the Al Samoud 2 missiles, which exceeded range limits imposed after the 1991 war.
Blix conceded that Iraq's steps to cooperate pro-actively came too late, and said he was interested to see what invading U.S. troops find, reports CBS News Correspondent Lou Miliano.
Blix said he wished he'd been given more time to conduct weapons inspections. But he would never request such a thing, he said, because it could be perceived as bias.
"If the council would give some months more, I would welcome it because I do not think it is reasonable to close the door to inspections after only 3½ months," Blix said.