UNITED NATIONS – While the United States and Britain worked on a new resolution that would authorize military action in Iraq, many countries spoke out Tuesday against a rush to war and demanded more weapons inspections to disarm Baghdad peacefully.
Speaking on behalf of 115 mainly developing countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, South Africa urged the Security Council to strengthen inspections and "redouble its efforts to bring about the peaceful resolution to the situation in Iraq."
The message from Friday's council briefing by top weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei "is that the inspection process in Iraq is working and that Iraq is showing clear signs of cooperating more proactively with the inspectors," South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said.
The Non-Aligned Movement asked for the open council meeting to give countries that aren't on the 15-member council a chance to present their views on the Iraq crisis, and 60 signed up to speak on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Kumalo, the leadoff speaker, noted that over the past two months inspectors have verified information provided by a number of countries but so far have turned up no weapons of mass destruction.
"None of the information provided thus far would seem to justify the Security Council abandoning the inspection process and immediately resorting to the threatened `serious consequences,' " he said. "We believe that resorting to war, without exhausting all other options, represents an admission of failure by the Security Council in carrying out its duty of maintaining international peace and security."
Kumalo urged Iraq to cooperate fully with inspectors to avoid war -- a plea echoed by two of Iraq's closest neighbors -- Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein's army invaded in 1990; and Iran, which fought a long war against Saddam's forces from 1980-88.
Iran's U.N. ambassador, Javad Zarif, warned that war would produce "a nightmare scenario of death and destruction" and said "the prospect of appointing a foreign military commander to run an Islamic and Arab country is all the more destabilizing and only indicative of prevailing delusions."
"One outcome is almost certain -- extremism stands to benefit," Zarif declared.
The United States and Britain maintain that Iraq is not cooperating fully, as demanded by the last U.N. resolution adopted unanimously in November, and are working on a resolution to authorize military action.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States wants to wait until after the open debate is completed to decide on "the timing and the precise contents" of a resolution. He said that no final decision has been made to introduce a second resolution but he expects an announcement "quite shortly."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also spoke about discussions with U.S. officials about a possible second resolution.
Council diplomats said Britain is determined to seek a second resolution because of strong public opposition to a war without U.N. authorization.
High-level discussions were continuing in Washington and London on the text, but diplomats said neither President Bush nor British Prime Minister Tony Blair had decided on the contents. A resolution could include a deadline, ultimatum or some kind of test for Iraq, one diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Australia's U.N. Ambassador John Dauth was the only speaker in the first dozen to give outright support for quick Security Council action. Australia has sent 2,000 troops to the region to prepare for war but hasn't decided whether to join a U.S.-led strike without a U.N. mandate.
Baghdad's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Al-Douri, countered that "Iraq's record of compliance with Security Council resolutions is unprecedented." He reaffirmed the country's commitment "to continuing full and active cooperation" with inspectors.
He accused the United States of trying to get rid of Saddam "and impose the American hegemony on the region and its resources as a first step toward world domination through the use of force."
"We call upon all countries of the world to heed the call of the millions of people the world over who during the last few days rejected any aggression or threat of war against Iraq," he said, referring to the massive anti-war protests.
But Bush declared Tuesday that America's security should not be dictated by protesters and said he would not be swayed from disarming Iraq.