UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council had mixed -- but not surprising -- reactions Friday to the chief U.N. weapons inspectors' reports that although Iraq's cooperation has been slow in coming, Baghdad is trying to live up to its obligations under Resolution 1441.
France and Germany, which have been opposed to the use of military action to oust Saddam Hussein, said recent increased cooperation from Iraq on the inspection process is proof that force is not needed.
France proposed that Hans Blix submit his reports every three weeks and that the council agree on timetables and an accelerated calendar for disarmament activities.
"I am proposing a deadline of only a few days," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. "France will not allow a resolution to pass that will allow a use of force."
France has been the leading voice of opposition to the U.S.-U.K. stance that war may be needed. The country has threatened to use its veto power to prevent the American-British-Spanish resolution from going anywhere. Britain on Friday also proposed an amendment to the U.S.-backed resolution giving Saddam a brief window of time to give up all his weapons before receiving a military thrashing.
"Why smash the instruments that have just proven their effectiveness?" de Villepin asked. "Why proceed by force at any price, when we can proceed peacefully?"
But he did say further information from Iraq on its disarmament progress must be supplied to inspectors. "Let us keep the pressure on Baghdad," the foreign minister said, adding that the U.S. military presence there is helping the process.
"These inspections cannot continue indefinitely," de Villepin added. "We need to know immediately which tasks need to be carried out by Iraq."
Other diplomats agreed with France.
China and Russia both rejected the idea of another resolution on Iraq, "particularly one that authorizes war," Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said.
But neither country threatened a veto.
"Only the unity of the international community is at stake," said Germany Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. "The Security Council must not spare any approach to disarmament. Baghdad could have taken many of recent steps earlier, nonetheless, cooperation has been improved. Real progress has been noted."
Fischer used Iraq's recent destruction of some of its 100-some Al Samoud 2 missiles as a prime example of diplomatic progress being made. Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix had ordered Baghdad to begin destroying those banned weapons by last Saturday.
"That shows that giving timeframes is successful," Fischer said, adding that interviews with Iraqi scientists have also made progress.
France, Germany and Russia recently proposed a plan to have weapons inspectors beef up their numbers and engage in more rigorous searches of Iraqi sites.
This runs counter to a resolution put forth by the United States, Britain and Spain -- supported by Bulgaria -- that authorizes the use of force if necessary -- and sooner rather than later.
"A new resolution is not needed," Fischer said. "Because the situation is so dramatic, we have to remind ourselves what war would mean … are we really in a situation that necessitates war? I think not."
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara said recent cooperative efforts from Iraq have been noted and that millions of people are protesting the war. He said the Arab states want a peaceful solution and that Iraq has provided "tangible evidence" of its willingness to get rid of its weapons.
"War against Iraq is illegitimate and unjust," he said. "It is kind of naïve that war will show the weapons and facilities" where they may be stored.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his country supports more inspections that will "enable us to evaluate the level of cooperation of Iraq" but stressed that the tough decisions that need to be made "should not lead to a rift between us."
"The United Nations Security Council must emerge united and strong," Ivanov said.
But these comments did nothing to sway the steadfastness of the United States, Britain and allies such as Spain, who said Iraq has run out of time and excuses.
"Saddam hopes the pressure will be removed and we will get bored with the task at hand," said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. "If we fail to meet our responsibilities, all the challenges we face will suffer.
"Now is the time to send a clear message to Saddam … now is the time for the council to say that the clock has not been stopped by his actions. The clock continues to tick, and the consequences of Saddam not disarming will be very real."
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw challenged any council member to have the guts to come out and say they think Iraq has fully complied with Resolution 1441 -- which calls for the complete and immediate disarmament of Iraq.
"Nobody - not one minister before this council … has said that Iraq is now fully, actively and immediately in compliance with 1441," Straw said.
He said if anyone still has doubts on whether Iraq is deceiving the world, they should read the 167-page "cluster document" handed out to Security Council members Friday outlining Iraq's deception of international weapons inspectors since the early 1990s.
Straw called it a "chilling read" about the failure of Iraq to comply with various U.N. resolutions for the past 12 years. "There has not been active cooperation in the areas that matter," he said.
He said continued inspections with no firm end date -- as suggested by France and others -- will not be effective unless Iraq's "full and active cooperation is immediate and forthcoming."
Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio also endorsed the U.S.-U.K. assessment. She called Saddam a tyrant who has provoked war and said the U.N.'s credibility would be jeopardized if it stood impotently aside.
Separately, Sheik Hamad bin Jassem, Qatar's foreign minister, met with Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday and planned to sit down later in the day with President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"We hope that this problem can be resolved peacefully and through the Security Council," he told reporters after the Cheney meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.