WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.N. inspectors, working with U.S.-supplied intelligence information, should be given time to ferret out Iraq's weapons before any decision is made to apply military force, Secretary of State Colin Powell says.

While taking that measured approach in television interviews Sunday, Powell said he had no doubt the United States and its allies would defeat Saddam Hussein's forces in a war. And he said this country is committed to seeing that Iraq remains an intact nation even if Saddam is overthrown.

War or peace depends on the Iraqis' behavior regarding the inspection teams, sent by the United Nations at the urging of the Bush administration, Powell said.

``They have been cooperating with the inspectors, and we'll see if that cooperation continues,'' he said on ABC's ``This Week.'' ``There's been some resistance in recent days ... and we are providing more information and intelligence to the inspectors to cue their visits.''

Powell was asked on CBS' ``Face the Nation'' what would prevent Iraq from falling apart and splintering into ethnic mini-states if a U.S.-led invasion were to crush Saddam's government.

There is a risk that Iraq could divide into states based on Shiite and Sunni Islam and the Kurdish ethnic group, he acknowledged. ``We are sensitive to it. We do not believe that would be in the interest of anyone.

``So we are committed to keeping Iraq intact and not allowing it to break up into three Balkan-like pieces. And any government we would support would be supported because it had such a commitment.''

Still, Powell said, the first orders of business are the inspections. ``If Iraq does not cooperate, or if we find reason to believe they do have weapons of mass destruction that they have not identified and turned over to the international community, then the president has all of his options available to him,'' including another appeal to the United Nations or military action.

On NBC's ``Meet the Press,'' Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he preferred the U.N. option. Noting that the inspectors are to report their findings to the United Nations on Jan. 27, Lugar said, ``My hope would be that we would engage the Security Council in appropriate action, depending on what that report has to say.''

Appearing with Lugar, the current Foreign Relations chairman, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said it remains uncertain when ``confronted with staying in power or giving up his weapons, what Saddam may do. But I think war is clearly at this point more likely than less likely.''

Two aircraft carrier battle groups, each with about 10,000 sailors and Marines, are within striking distance of Iraq. Two others were ordered last week to prepare for departure on 96 hours' notice, as were two amphibious warfare groups. The Navy has accelerated training schedules for other warships. Additional military personnel are heading for the Persian Gulf states Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, among other locations.

The Iraqi government scoffed at the plans to deploy. ``The beating of war drums, the noise of weapons, the sending of warships, the mobilizing of armies will neither frighten nor terrorize the Iraqis,'' the official Iraqi army newspaper, Al-Qadissiya, said Saturday in an editorial.