WASHINGTON – The United States is preparing to revise its proposed U.N. resolution on Iraqi weapons inspections in a move certain to delay Security Council action past the midterm elections.
A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press on Thursday the changes would reflect the views of Russia and France without altering the tough approach demanded by the United States and Britain. Russia and France object to threatening Iraq with "serious consequences" if it fails to disarm.
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the U.S. strategy by telephone Thursday with Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov of Russia and Dominique de Villepin of France.
Revising the resolution could take a day or two after which diplomats who have been negotiating at the United Nations for seven weeks would consult their capitals, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
That means consideration of a resolution would spill over into next week with a vote probably not until mid-week or even later.
The political effect would be that President Bush will be able to hold back on announcing whether he intends to go to war with Iraq — a potentially explosive issue — until after Tuesday's elections.
Russia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Gennady Gatilov, said Wednesday his government still had "quite a lot of problems" with the U.S.-British draft.
On the campaign trail Thursday, Bush said it was the United Nations' job to force Iraq to disarm and if it refuses to act, "we will lead a coalition of nations and disarm Saddam Hussein."
"You need to do your job," Bush said while stumping for Republican candidates in South Dakota.
His lecture paralleled his earlier suggestions that the 191-nation world organization would risk irrelevance if the Security Council did not take a strong stand on Iraq.
"If you won't act, and if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, for the sake of peace, for the sake of a future for our children, we will lead a coalition of nations and disarm Saddam Hussein," Bush said.
In urging the council to act, Bush said he wanted the United Nations to succeed and its resolutions carried out.
In New York, however, the U.S. demand for a strong resolution that threatens Iraq with "serious consequences" if it defies weapons inspectors again continued to encounter stiff resistance.
Russia, France and China, all of whom could sink a joint U.S.-British resolution with a veto, support new inspections but not threats.
In response, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "our bottom line has not changed."
"There needs to be a clear statement of Iraq's failure to comply, there has to be a tough inspection regime and there have to be consequences in the event of new Iraqi violations," Boucher said.
Another U.S. official declined to confirm reports the United States had begun identifying sites in Iraq believed to have hidden caches of chemical and biological weapons.
But the official said the Bush administration was using all its resource to ensure new inspections would be comprehensive.
For seven weeks, American diplomats have been unable to swing France, Russia and China behind the U.S.-British draft of a resolution authorizing force if Iraq fails to disarm.
"We continue to believe that we are narrowing the differences," Boucher said.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer cautioned that using force against Iraq would be risky and could produce a catastrophe in the Middle East.
"Our big No. 1 question what will happen the day after" an attack, Fischer said. "Is the United States really ready" to station troops in Baghdad for years, he asked.
"We won't be part of a military action," Fischer said Thursday.
At the same time, he denounced the Iraqi government as "a terrible regime" that must give U.N. inspectors unfettered access to search for weapons of mass destruction.