February 25, 2003

U.S. and Allies Ask U.N. to Declare Iraq Won't Disarm

NITED NATIONS, Feb. 24 — The United States, Britain and Spain asked the Security Council today to declare that Iraq had failed to take a last chance to disarm to avoid a war. But France, Russia and Germany moved to strengthen the United Nations inspections and give Saddam Hussein months more to show that he is complying.

The American ambassador to the United Nations, John D. Negroponte, told reporters after the session that he viewed this approach with "deep skepticism," and senior Bush administration officials predicted that the outcome would soon be either Saddam Hussein's exile or military action to disarm Iraq and topple his government.

The showdown that began with this resolution will determine if a war to disarm and remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq will receive final approval from the United Nations. Public opinion around the world has been running against an American-led war. In the United States, polls show a majority favor war only with United Nations approval. [Texts, Page A14.]

This evening, President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, dismissed the French approach as "the worst of both worlds." She said it was tantamount to an admission that Mr. Hussein was not complying with the resolution requiring him to disarm, while helping the Iraqi leader "alter and play with" the resolution's requirements.

Standing before a White House painting depicting Theodore Roosevelt on his charger, Ms. Rice added that unless Mr. Hussein left the country, "it is hard to imagine any other way — if he has failed to voluntarily disarm — to disarm him except forcibly."

She said Mr. Bush, who was working just across the hall in the Oval Office as she spoke, was willing to wait until Hans Blix, one of two United Nations chief weapons inspectors, gave a report on Iraqi compliance on March 7. She said she expected a vote on the resolution the following week, and other officials strongly hinted that military action could come immediately thereafter.

"It's time to deal with this problem," she concluded.

As the 15 ambassadors came out of the Security Council chambers this evening to begin consultations with their governments, it was clear that the group remained divided. But it was hard to determine whether the Anglo-American-Spanish coalition would be able to pick up the nine votes needed for Council approval of the resolution.

The French envoy, Jean-Marc de la Sablière said, "The time has not come to discuss a military option," adding, "it is a possibility to reach our goal" of disarming Iraq "with peaceful means." The Russian ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, echoed this position, telling reporters, "We do not think the chance for a peaceful disarmament of Iraq has been lost."

The envoy from at least one undeclared nation indicated yesterday that his main concern was seeing action by a united Security Council. "What we would like to see is the Council brought together on an agreed approach," said Munir Arkam, the Pakistani ambassador. He said the British envoy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, had told the Council: "There is still time and the Security Council still has control over the process."

But Sir Jeremy told reporters after the meeting that a "sword of Damocles" was hanging over Saddam Hussein and that "there is not much time left." He added, "I want to see this debate change in character and see if the Security Council can stay in control of this dossier."

The new resolution, which fits on a single piece of office paper, has a one-sentence operative paragraph declaring that the Council "Decides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441" — the resolution the Council passed unanimously in November, after eight weeks of negotiations.

The proposed resolution also harks back to the authority of the United Nations' founding charter, which provides, in chapter seven, that member nations "may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security."

Nine votes are required for passage by the 15-member Security Council, provided that none of the permanent members, which include France and Russia, cast a veto. Six of the 10 elected members — Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Cameroon, Angola and Guinea — have indicated a preference for continuing inspections, but have not declared which side they are on. The Anglo-Spanish-American coalition needs five of these six votes to pass the resolution, assuming there is no veto.

Bulgaria, also an elected Council member, has consistently supported the United States. China, a permanent member, has been aligned with the French.

Before the discussion took place in the Council chambers, the weapons inspector, Mr. Blix, met with his expert advisory board and gave them a 170-page document reviewing the clusters of disarmament issues yet to be resolved. That group is to resume discussions Tuesday.

On Friday, Mr. Blix sent Baghdad a demand that destruction of their entire stock of short-range Al Samoud 2 missiles should begin by March 1.

In a three-hour satellite interview with Dan Rather of CBS News, portions of which were to be broadcast Tuesday, Saddam Hussein said that none of its missiles violated the range limits set by the United Nations and that "Iraq is allowed to prepare proper missiles and we are committed to that," an article on the CBS Web site said.

At the White House this evening, Ms. Rice waved off Mr. Hussein's arguments about whether he would comply with Mr. Blix's demands on the missiles. "I can absolutely predict" she said, that Mr. Hussein will offer "a little cooperation in hopes that he can release the pressure." Then, she said, "he goes back to cheating and retreating and deceiving again."

She noted that the new resolution was constructed to recall many of the provisions that the Council adopted 15 to 0 in November, and described the document as "an up or down on whether or not the Security Council is going to enforce Resolution 1441." More time to coax Iraq along, she said, would only allow Mr. Hussein to try to "split the Council trying to play public opinion."

Before she spoke today, other members of the Bush administration, moving beyond the prospect of military action against Iraq to dealing with its aftermath, said today that they expected to aid two million displaced people and refugees once American forces were in the country.

They described how food, blankets, water and medicine have already been positioned on Iraq's borders, in four nations that they refused to name.

The announcement at the White House appeared intended to respond to criticism by relief organizations that have charged that the Pentagon has not helped — and the Treasury Department has impeded — their efforts to survey the needs of Iraqis.

Posted by editor at February 25, 2003 03:40 AM
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