Resistance builds in U.N. to tough U.S. resolution on Iraq

Signs of cooperation by Hussein foster interest in French 2-step proposal

October 03, 2002|By Maggie Farley and Robin Wright | Maggie Farley and Robin Wright,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

UNITED NATIONS - A day after Iraq opened the door to weapons inspections with some limits, a tough U.S. proposal seeking "all necessary means" to force full compliance with past U.N. resolutions appeared in trouble in the Security Council.

With France proposing an alternative measure to delay military intervention, several council members complained yesterday that the American approach would more likely lead to war than prevent it.

The shift in attitude suggested difficult negotiations still lie ahead for Washington.

"Right now, the U.S. and U.K. don't have enough votes in favor of their proposal," said Ginette de Matha, France's U.N. spokesman. "The automatic use of military force is not acceptable."

A Security Council resolution needs support of nine members. And it needs to avoid a veto by any of five nations with permanent seats - the United States, Britain, China, Russia and France. Only Britain has backed the Bush administration's draft resolution, with Colombia hinting it might also.

But encouraged by signs of cooperation by Iraq, the rest of the Security Council seemed to be leaning toward France's two-step approach, which first allows weapons inspectors a chance to establish whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime has eliminated any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and the missile used to deliver them.

If Baghdad fails, then the Security Council would need to pass a second resolution authorizing military force.

Although U.S. diplomats delayed the formal introduction of their text in the face of the council's heightened resistance, they said yesterday that the United States would stand firm.

"We'll work it out," said a senior State Department official. "We have a history of prevailing, and we intend to."

The United States has drafted a resolution that would give inspectors broad new powers to hunt for suspected weapons of mass destruction and provide them armed security while they conduct their search.

If Iraq does not accept its terms within a week of passage or fails to disclose required information within 30 days, the resolution authorizes "all necessary means" to force compliance - in short, a military attack.

The U.S. text, drafted in consultation with Britain, has other requirements that Security Council members might resist.

It demands that Iraq provide full disclosure of the extent of its weapons program, including the names of scientists who worked on it. It includes provisions to take Iraqis and their families out of the country for private interviews, a term diplomats say is an invitation to defect.

The text also would allow any Security Council member to place a representative on an inspection team to report back to his or her home government, a provision that Iraq likely would view as authorizing spying.

"We see it as a hard-line text designed for negotiation," said a council diplomat who opposes the U.S. proposal. "These are terms almost no one can accept. If we did, it would be an invitation for war."

Today, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will brief the Security Council on talks with Iraq. He said Tuesday that he could send advance teams to Iraq as early as Oct. 19. But the United States insists that the team wait for a new resolution that strengthens the inspectors' mandate and repeals conditions restricting impromptu inspections of eight presidential sites.

In Washington, deputy State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker insisted yesterday on unfettered access to all sites, especially the presidential palaces: "We're not talking Sleeping Beauty here; we're talking massive structures, gigantic facilities, extremely well guarded. What's he hiding?"

And officials continued to play up reports of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida, the Associated Press reported.

A top al-Qaida operative was in Baghdad about two months ago, and U.S. officials suspect his presence was known to Hussein's government, a defense official said yesterday. Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian, is believed to have left Iraq.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have called Zarqawi - also known as Ahmad Fadeel al-Khalaylah - one of al-Qaida's top two dozen leaders.

As the United States worked to line up support among Security Council members, Bush administration officials outlined a strategy yesterday that concentrated first on winning over the Russians and then using that success to pressure the French to back a tough resolution.

In intensive discussions in Washington, New York and Moscow, U.S. officials are pressing the Russians to sign on - in exchange for significant economic benefits and a major role in Iraq if Hussein's regime falls, said Bush administration sources.

The key incentive reportedly is an understanding that Russia will have a prominent part during a political transition in Baghdad, to help Moscow secure a longer-term relationship with a new government.

There were hints yesterday the approach might be working, with Russia, a longtime ally of Iraq, indicating it had softened significantly on its earlier refusal to back any resolution.

"If additional decisions are necessary for the efficient work of the inspectors, we, of course, are ready to consider them," Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov said in Moscow.

Maggie Farley and Robin Wright are reporters with the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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