UNITED NATIONS – For the first time since the U.S.-led war against Iraq began last week, the divided U.N. Security Council called an open meeting where any of the 191 U.N. member states can express their views on the military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.
Arab and non-aligned nations demanding an end to war in Iraq and the immediate withdrawal of the invasion force asked for Wednesday's council meeting, which is likely to continue on Thursday and attract at least 50 speakers.
It was not clear whether the 22-member Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, which represents about 115 mainly developing countries, would introduce a resolution demanding a halt to the fighting and withdrawal of all foreign forces.
Council diplomats said the two organizations would wait to see whether they could get nine "yes" votes in the 15-member council, the minimum number for a resolution to be adopted. The United States and Britain would almost certainly veto the resolution, but would lose face by doing so.
"The veto itself is sometimes a kind of defeat," Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri said.
Council diplomats said the amount of support would depend on the wording in the resolution. Last week, the United States, Britain and Spain abandoned their resolution seeking an ultimatum for Saddam and U.N. authorization for a war against Iraq because of strong council opposition led by France, Russia, Germany and China. Those countries favored Iraq's peaceful disarmament through strengthened U.N. inspections.
Wednesday's meeting was called at the urging of Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt. Kuwait didn't object, but was unhappy that the foreign ministers did not condemn Iraq for firing 12 missiles into civilian areas of Kuwait. Most of the missiles exceeded the 93-mile limit allowed under U.N. resolutions.
If a resolution is vetoed in the Security Council, the Arab Group was to seek an emergency meeting of the 191-member General Assembly. To get a special session, supporters have to present a petition signed by 97 nations.
No nation has veto power in the General Assembly, but its resolutions are not legally binding -- unlike those in the Security Council. Nonetheless, General Assembly resolutions are viewed as reflecting global opinion.