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Byline: Bob Kemper and Howard Witt
WASHINGTON _ The failure of United Nations inspectors to find evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons programs in Iraq has done nothing to dampen the possibility that the Bush administration will call for a military strike in the Persian Gulf, administration officials said Wednesday.
The U.N.'s top inspectors are to deliver an interim report on Iraq's weapons programs Thursday in New York that is expected to accuse Iraq of failing to answer key questions about its programs but offer no new evidence that Iraq has amassed weapons of mass destruction.
That lack of evidence has emboldened U.S. allies opposed to war, who say inspectors' failure to find a smoking gun bolsters their arguments against a military invasion of Iraq.
The European Union announced Wednesday that it would meet with Arab leaders in late January in hopes of averting a war. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose country just assumed a seat on the U.N. Security Council, pledged to "do all we can to prevent a military dispute" in Iraq.
Still, Bush administration officials argue that even without definitive weapons discoveries by the U.N. …