Posted by Tony from 63-93-86-150.lsan.dial.netzero.com (188.8.131.52) on Friday, October 18, 2002 at 1:03AM :
Americans soften draft UN resolution on Iraqi arms
By David Usborne
18 October 2002
The United States blinked last night in its long stand-off with France and other members of the United Nations Security Council over Iraq, significantly softening its conditions for a new UN resolution to pave the way for a return of weapons inspectors to Baghdad.
Diplomatic sources confirmed that Washington had offered a less belligerent draft resolution, raising hopes that agreement in the 15-member Council may now be attainable. It tones down a provision in an earlier version that explicitly threatened Iraq with military action if it failed to comply with the new inspections.
The change in stance appeared to be a victory for France, which had led opposition to the first American draft that essentially would have given Washington a green light to strike Iraq at the first sign of non-compliance with the inspections. Paris had not reacted to the new offer last night.
Britain was reported to be working behind the scenes to persuade Paris to accept the new US text at least as a basis for negotiation in the Council. "We're looking for unity in the Council," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the UN, said.
If agreement can be achieved in the coming days, the door would finally be open for Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, to send his teams into Iraq. Under the terms of an Iraqi invitation to Mr Blix last month, inspections had been scheduled to start at the end of this week. That became impossible as wrangling between Washington and Paris dragged on.
France, with the support of Russia, has been resisting earlier American demands for a single resolution incorporating a clear threat of military reprisals, pushing instead for two resolutions. The first would set tough terms for the new inspections; the second would authorise the use of force in the event of further non-compliance by Iraq.
America is still asking for a single resolution. However, sources said the new compromise text would ensure that any decision to punish Iraq with force would remain a decision for the Security Council as a whole and would not rest with single member states.
Specifically, the new compromise says that in the event of Iraq failing to honour its latest promise to co-operate with the inspectors, a new meeting of the UN Security Council would be convened to discuss any response. "This establishes the notion that this will remain a UN process," one senior diplomat noted. "It is a real move on the substance by the US and the French would be fools not to grab it."
The American shift came as the Security Council completed a second day of open debate about Iraq. Ambassador after ambassador spoke out against military action, arguing instead that time should be given to Baghdad to make the inspections work.
Tunisia's ambassador, Noureddine Mejdoub, said: "This war is useless ... It would unleash a chain of reactions in Iraq and in the region."
While London has been publicly allied with Washington in the struggle for a resolution, it privately warned Washington that its first draft on Iraq was doomed to be rejected by France and probably Russia. A breakdown of talks in the Security Council would have given hawks in Washington a pretext to sweep the UN to one side and proceed with war plans.
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