Russia, France Oppose Iraq Draft

Published October 23, 2002

| Associated Press

The United States faces stiff opposition to its tough new Iraq resolution, and the State Department predicted that negotiations will be "complicated" and "messy."

The United States and Britain have been at odds with France, Russia and China over just how tough a new resolution should be — and Tuesday's reactions to the new U.S. draft showed no sign that the two camps were moving closer.

Washington, backed by London, is pushing a single resolution that it says would allow the use of force if Iraq doesn't meet its U.N. disarmament obligations.

Paris, Moscow and Beijing want a two-stage approach that would give Iraq another chance to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors and only authorize force in a second resolution if Baghdad obstructed inspections.

Diplomats said Russia was most vocal in its opposition, and more difficult than France.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was quoted as telling Russian journalists in Moscow that "The American draft resolution ... does not answer the criteria which the Russian side laid out earlier and which it confirms today."

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in Luxembourg: "There is still a lot of work to do." A senior Chinese diplomat at the United Nations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It's a pity there are no substantive changes from the previous text."

In New York, ambassadors from the five countries — who are all permanent members of the Security Council and have veto power — held two rounds of talks on the new U.S. draft, which was distributed Monday, going line-by-line through the seven-page text.

The issue of a new resolution has been at the United Nations since President Bush addressed the General Assembly on Sept. 12 and warned that if the Security Council didn't act decisively to disarm Saddam Hussein, the United States would take action on its own.

Bush reiterated the warning on Tuesday. "If the United Nations can't make its mind up, if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace," he said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was prepared "to work very hard" because it believes the Security Council wants a strong resolution that can disarm Iraq.

"This is going to be a complicated process because it is a long text," he said. "It's probably going to be a messy process." But he said he still thought the discussions were moving forward.

The two negotiating sessions on Tuesday lasted more than four hours and U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said afterward that capitals needed time to digest the comments.

"I think you have to allow the negotiating process a little bit of time," Negroponte said.

The United States wants "to ensure that there's no veto in the offing," he said.

One of the major problems is that the new U.S. proposal includes phrases that could be interpreted as triggering military action.

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 require the Bush administration to wait for the council before it acts.

As in the original U.S. draft resolution, the new one demands that Iraq accept the resolution within seven days of its adoption and declare its programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles within 30 days. Inspectors would then have up to 45 days to resume inspections.

In the new U.S. text, there are now two references — not one — 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.

One reference says a false statement or omission in Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs and Iraq's failure to comply with inspectors would constitute "further material breach of Iraq's obligations," according to excerpts of the draft obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday.

The U.S. draft also recalls Security Council warnings that Iraq would face "serious consequences," as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.

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. Boucher said he expects the 10 elected council members to be given the text by the end of the week.

The new U.S. text keeps a key demand that Iraq provide inspectors with unconditional access to all sites — including presidential complexes now exempt from surprise searches, according to the excerpts.

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.

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