U.N. backs U.S. demand for weapons inspections in Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (APOnline) ” Security Council members
echoed President Bush's demand for Iraq to admit U.N. weapons
inspectors, and key nations indicated they would support giving
Saddam Hussein a deadline to comply.
But after Bush told the council to confront the "grave and
gathering danger" posed by Iraq or stand aside as the United
States acts, no council nation backed the use of force if Saddam
continues to say no
Many council members, Arab countries, and other U.N. member
states focused on Bush's decision to give the United Nations a
chance to avoid a confrontation.
Foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding nations on the
Security Council ” the United States, Russia, China, Britain and
France ” discussed Iraq over lunch Friday with Secretary-General
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov read a statement on behalf
of the five permanent members saying Iraq's failure to comply
with council resolutions "is a serious problem." They also said
consultations had begun to decide how the council can tackle the
problem of implementation.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters after the
meeting there was "complete unanimity about the imperative of
getting the weapons inspectors back into Iraq."
"I think it's fair to say (there is) a very clear understanding that if
we're going to set an imperative to get those weapons inspectors
back, then that has to mean a time limit," he said.
But Straw, whose country has been the strongest supporter of the
United States, said time was needed for detailed discussions on
resolutions about Iraq.
"What we're looking at first is concepts and then only later we'll
come on to the detailed wording, but so far so good," he said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell spent the day lobbying the 15
council members, Arab countries, and other U.N. members to
support Bush's proposal.
"We're off to a good start," he said. They all "recognize the
challenge that Iraq does present to international law and to the
mandate of the Security Council."
Powell said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte would follow up
with individual meetings next week with other council members.
Vice President Dick Cheney was also planning to come to New
York next week.
Sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait
cannot be lifted until U.N. inspectors certify that its weapons of
mass destruction have been destroyed. Inspectors left the country
four years ago ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes to punish Iraq
for not cooperating with inspections.
Since then, Iraq has refused to allow inspectors to return, and the
stalemate has split the Security Council several times.
Ivanov, whose country is Iraq's closest ally on the council, called
for a political settlement and urged Iraq to comply with council
resolutions. China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan echoed the
plea for more diplomacy.
Their focus on political ” not military ” action indicated how
tough it will be to get council authorization for an attack on Iraq.
While Ivanov reiterated Moscow's opposition to unilateral U.S.
military action against Iraq, he also indicated that what happens to
Iraq is up to Saddam.
He told Russian reporters in New York "if Iraq refuses to
cooperate with the U.N. Security Council, the Iraqi government
will take responsibility itself for possible consequences," the
Interfax news agency reported.
French President Jacques Chirac has proposed a two-step
approach, which some diplomats say would avert a divisive split
in the council early on.
An initial resolution would set a short deadline for Iraq to let
inspectors return. If Iraq refuses, or seeks to undermine their
work, the Security Council would then consider action against
Iraq. A senior U.S. official said Washington is open to the French
France hasn't endorsed military action, but hasn't ruled it out.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Friday that
"the best way forward" is the return of inspectors.
During his day of lobbying, Powell also met the 10 non-permanent
council members, whose terms rotate every two years.
Arab ministers grasped at Bush's decision to go the United
Nations as an opportunity to avert war.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, whose country is on the
council, said he was waiting to see what "formula" the council
proposes. He backed the Arab position that opposes an attack on
Iraq, but calls for its compliance with U.N. resolutions.
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