U.S. demands for U.N. action hit strong opposition

Published: Friday, November 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2002 at 10:21 p.m.
UNITED NATIONS - The U.S. demand for speedy U.N. action on Iraq has run into strong opposition from Russia, France and China, who want Washington to change a draft resolution and eliminate any license for the United States to attack Baghdad on its own.
The three powerful Security Council members want to ensure that Iraq is given a chance to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors before any military action is authorized - and they are now waiting to see what the United States and Britain are going to do to address their concerns.
"It's time for some careful thinking about what next," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said Thursday.
"I think the United States and the United Kingdom need to absorb the results of the last three council meetings."
After Wednesday's third council session on the U.S. proposal, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Gennady Gatilov said Moscow still has "quite a number of problems" with the U.S. draft, centered on the automatic authorization to use force.
The U.S. and British consultations on possible changes to the U.S. draft, coupled with today's handover of the Security Council presidency from Cameroon to China and next Tuesday's U.S. election, have pushed back the Bush administration's timetable for a U.N. vote.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in London he hopes the Security Council can reach agreement this week or next but it may take longer.
"I can't be certain that we will reach a resolution on these issues in the next couple of weeks," he said.
The Security Council only got the U.S. draft on Oct. 23 and the three sessions since then gave all 15 members the opportunity to go over it line by line and suggest changes.
Greenstock said contacts between key capitals are continuing but no council meeting has been scheduled on Iraq, and the issue will likely be taken up again next week.
Whether the U.S.-British response will meet Russian, French and Chinese demands remains to be seen.
Greenstock said the United States and Britain haven't decided yet whether to revise their draft resolution.
"All I can say is it's unlikely that we'll put exactly the same draft back down again. We are taking account of what we've heard," he said.
China's Ambassador Wang Yingfan expected the United States and Britain to come back with revisions.
"I don't know what kind of progress in the end we'll have," he said.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said everyone knows Paris' position, but "frankly we don't know where the U.S. is" now on the issue of authorizing force.
In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said debate would likely be concluded toward the end of next week, but he stressed that U.S. action in Iraq will not be decided by the United Nations.
"There is nothing that we would propose in this resolution or we would find acceptable in a resolution that would handcuff the president of the United States in doing what he feels he must do," Powell said, reiterating the administration's view that the U.S. Congress has already given its authorization for U.S. military action against Iraq.
But the administration also wants the United Nations to support a resolution that strengthens inspections, warns Iraq of "serious consequences" if it fails to cooperate, and declares that Iraq is still in "material breach" of its obligations to get rid of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
In an effort to win support, Washington signaled a readiness this week to make some minor concessions involving a new weapons inspection regime. These were welcomed, but the United States has yet to find a solution to the critical issue of the automatic use of force.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday it isn't the words "material breach" or "serious consequences" that are at issue but their context and the meaning it implies.
In the case of the U.S. draft, Gatilov said Wednesday that Russia still has concerns that references to "material breach" could trigger an attack on Iraq.
He stressed that any assurances from the United States and Britain that this is not the case must be in the draft resolution. Diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington could be willing to offer such assurances privately.
At Wednesday's council meeting, diplomats said many nations also objected to an introductory paragraph recalling U.N. resolutions adopted after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait which authorized member states "to use all necessary means" to oust Iraqi troops and restore Kuwait's freedom. There were concerns this could trigger new military action if Iraq failed to cooperate
On Wednesday, President Bush hosted chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix of the United Nations, and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the White House.
Blix told Associated Press Television News that Bush made clear he was categorically committed to ensuring the success of weapons inspections and wanted to make sure that Iraq could not engage in any "cat and mouse play" with inspectors.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry denounced the meeting, calling it a move to "put pressure on the U.N. to adopt the aggressive resolution which distorts facts and adds more conditions."

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