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U.S.: New U.N. Draft Will Give Inspectors More Clout

The United States on Tuesday pushed a revised U.N. draft resolution on Iraq that gives weapons inspectors more clout and puts Saddam Hussein on notice that he faces "serious consequences" if Iraq does not cooperate.

But there were signs that Russia and France — two veto-holding council members — were disappointed.

"There is still a lot of work to do," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday in Luxembourg "There are some points that need to be discussed among us before we have an accord."

The new U.S. proposal, drafted with British support, includes phrases that could be interpreted as triggering military action, wording that that has raised disagreement from the French and Russians.

Instead of one reference, there are now two references to Iraq being in "material breach" for violating U.N. resolutions, a phrase that some legal experts say could open the door for military action. Another recalls Security Council warnings that Iraq would face "serious consequences," as a result of its continued violations of its obligations, according to excerpts of the draft obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday.

The draft was being studied in Paris, Moscow and Beijing while ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council members met in New York Tuesday.

There was no official reaction from Russia, but the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported Tuesday that Moscow was disappointed with the revised U.S. draft. Quoting unidentified sources, they said it differed little from previous U.S.-British proposals.

France, backed by Russia and China, has led opposition to a U.S. resolution that would authorize the use of force without first giving Iraq another chance to meet its U.N. disarmament obligations. It favors a two-stage approach that would give Iraq a chance to comply and only authorize force in a second resolution if Baghdad obstructed inspections.

The United States, supported by Britain, has circulated a single resolution that it says will allow the use of force if Saddam fails to comply.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday the United States wants to wrap up negotiations with the new text.

"This is the text which will accomplish our goals, identifying the violations of U.N. resolutions by Iraq, mandating and giving the inspectors authority to carry out strong and unrestricted inspections and making clear that the council is determined to ensure that there will be consequences if Iraq fails to comply," he said.

Last week, Washington backed down from its demand that the resolution authorize the use of "all necessary means" if Iraq failed to comply and agreed instead to let inspectors go to Iraq and report any violations to the Security Council. The new U.S. draft would then have the council convene immediately to discuss the situation — but U.S. officials have said this doesn't commit the Bush administration to wait for council action before it acts.

As in the original U.S. draft resolution, the new one demands that Iraq accept the new resolution within seven days of its adoption and declare its programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and related capabilities within 30 days.

In order for a resolution to pass, it needs a minimum of nine "yes" votes from the 15 council members, and no veto by a permanent member.

The 10 elected council members haven't yet seen the text.

Council diplomats said they expect negotiations in the full council to focus on new terms for inspections.

The new U.S. text keeps a key U.S. demand, requiring Iraq to provide inspectors with immediate and unconditional access to all sites — including presidential complexes which are currently exempt from surprise searches, according to the excerpts.

A proposal to let inspectors take Iraqis and their families outside the country for interviews remained in the resolution, though current inspectors say this poses serious problems, for example if an Iraqi being questioned wanted asylum.

The new draft also keeps a proposal for U.N. security forces or U.N. member states to protect inspectors in no-fly, no-drive zones — but leaves it in brackets as it was in the original draft, meaning it is still being debated, the diplomats said. Many current and former U.N. inspectors oppose being accompanied by security forces and diplomats predict this provision will be dropped.

The new U.S. draft already dropped a proposal to allow the five permanent council members to be represented on inspection teams, the diplomats said. Many U.N. officials said this would politicize inspections.

Inspectors must certify that Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs have been destroyed before sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait can be lifted.