UNITED NATIONS – A toughly worded U.S. draft proposal on Iraq would give U.N. inspectors broad new powers to hunt for weapons of mass destruction and provide them with military backing to carry out the search.
According to the 3-page draft resolution obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, the Security Council would give Iraq 30 days to compile a "complete declaration of all aspects of its program to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."
If any "false statements or omissions," are made in the declaration, member states would be authorized to "use all necessary means to restore international peace and security in the area," diplomatic language permitting military force.
The U.S. proposal has not been submitted formally to the Security Council, or even shown to the majority of its 15 members. Key elements of the U.S. draft face deep opposition from Russia, China and France -- three veto-holding council members who say the aren't ready to authorize force before inspectors have time to test Iraq's willingness to comply.
But U.S. diplomats welcomed signs that all three were ready for some compromise that would empower the inspectors and speed up a timetable for Iraqi compliance.
Working a two-track approach on Iraq at the United Nations and at home Wednesday, President Bush said the use of force against Iraq "may become unavoidable" if President Saddam Hussein refuses to disarm. He issued his threat after House leaders agreed to give Bush authority to oust Saddam. A top Senate Democrat suggested the plan might win Senate support as well.
If the American draft resolution at the United Nations is passed in its current form, it would give U.N. inspectors sweeping powers and could authorize a foreign military presence in Iraq to enforce the resolution.
France has been floating a counterproposal which welcomes changes in the inspections regime but does not authorize force against Iraq.
Instead, a draft of the French proposal, obtained by AP, offers Iraq a chance to cooperate but says that "any serious failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations," would lead to an immediate Security Council meeting to "consider any measure to ensure full compliance."
A further glaring difference between the two drafts is that the U.S. proposal, written with the British, doesn't recognize Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity. That language, important for China, appears in previous resolutions and in the French draft and had been used by Iraq in the past to block inspectors from entering so-called sensitive sites such as government ministries.
The competing drafts lay out the basis for the difficult Security Council negotiations on Iraq expected to begin Thursday, when chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix briefs the council on his meetings in Vienna earlier this week with Iraqi officials.
Blix, who heads the U.N. Monitoring, Inspection and Verification Commission, or UNMOVIC, reached agreement with Iraqi officials on logistics for a new inspection mission to reassess Saddam's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq said it expected an advance team in Baghdad in two weeks.
Blix is unlikely to get council approval to begin inspections while the five permanent Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- are still divided over how to proceed.
"We do not believe they should go in until they have new instructions. ... The fear here is that Iraq's goal is to engage in a ploy so that they can drag this out before the world as they continue to build up their arms," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday.
But not everyone on the council agreed.
Mexican ambassador Adolfo Zinser said Blix was bound by existing resolutions which call for the immediate return of inspectors to Baghdad.
Syria's deputy ambassador, Faysal Mekdad, said he saw no need for a new resolution "now that Iraq appears to be cooperating with weapons inspectors."
Still, there appeared to be enough willingness among key Security Council members to find a compromise text to guide a new inspections team on the ground.
The ambassadors from the permanent five met Tuesday to begin discussions on the draft and said they would try to narrow differences again Thursday before presenting any proposal to the full council.
In Moscow Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested there was room for negotiations.
"First we have to hold a session of the United Nations Security Council, hear Blix's report and determine if there indeed is a need for such a resolution. If additional decisions are necessary for the efficient work of the inspectors, we, of course, are ready to consider them."
The American draft resolution appeared aimed at preventing problems that occurred during the last inspections regime, which ended in December 1998 amid allegations that Iraq was refusing to cooperate. The inspectors left shortly before four days of punishing U.S. and British airstrikes against Iraq. Baghdad refused to let the inspectors return.
The U.S. resolution would establish revised procedures for the inspectors by overriding a 1998 agreement limiting access to eight presidential sites.
The sites, encompassing 12 square miles, had been a sore point between the United States and the United Nations, although the United States approved the deal to exempt them from regular inspections at the time.
The U.S. draft specifically calls for "unrestricted access to presidential sites," and says "teams shall be accompanied at their bases by a U.N. security force to protect them."
In addition, the same U.N. security force -- which would need to be established -- or the forces of a member state, such as the United States, would be used to enforce no-fly and no-drive zones around inspection sites.
Any one of the five permanent council members would have the right to send representatives on inspections and to receive intelligence reports from inspectors.
The previous U.N. inspections team disbanded at the end of 1998 amid allegations of spying for the United States.
Although the Iraqis have agreed to the return of inspectors, they have repeatedly raised concerns about spying, prompting Blix to say last week that he would not share intelligence with foreign governments.
The draft resolution demands that inspectors from UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency be given private access to anyone they wish to interview. It also says those individuals and their families can be taken out of Iraq to guarantee "that such interviews shall occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government."