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U.N. Measure on Iraqi Arms Nears Passage

Every Security Council member except Syria is expected today to adopt the much-disputed resolution, a diluted version of a U.S. draft.

November 08, 2002|Maggie Farley and Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writers

"There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution," U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said. "Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken."

The compromise reassured diplomats who have suspected that despite engaging in negotiations at the United Nations, the U.S. will ultimately attack Iraq with or without the sanction of the Security Council. If the U.S. is sincere about involving the U.N., said Russia's ambassador, Sergei V. Lavrov, then the process has been valuable.

"We know the position of the United States," Lavrov said. "But if they say that this resolution is not about an extra authorization, [that] it's a genuine effort to have inspectors on the ground and to fulfill entirely the mandate, then it's quite important."

Bush administration officials declined to acknowledge that their position shifted considerably through the course of negotiations. But three months ago, when Vice President Dick Cheney first put Iraq on the administration's front burner, he seemed to dismiss the U.N. and the entire idea of using inspectors to monitor Hussein and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

"Saddam has perfected the game of cheat and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception," Cheney said in August. "A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of this compliance with U.N. resolutions."

In his own speech to the United Nations a few weeks later, Bush barely mentioned weapons inspectors except to note that the inspections program had been unsuccessful.

"We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country," Bush said at the time. "Are we to assume that he stopped when they left?"

Baghdad has blocked the entry of teams seeking chemical and biological arms and materials designed to build nuclear weapons since December 1998, when the United States and Britain launched airstrikes to punish Hussein for failing to cooperate with the former U.N. disarmament agency.

Administration officials had argued that any military action ought to be launched before March, when hot weather in Iraq complicates military operations. U.S. officials say privately that based on Iraq's history with weapons inspections and its continued efforts to develop weapons, Baghdad will probably provide cause for the use of force sooner rather than later.

The Bush administration says the resolution does not restrict it from launching military action, which it maintains is authorized under previous Security Council resolutions on Iraq. But it does commit it to a second round of U.N. deliberations on the question of whether and how to use force to enforce Iraqi disarmament.

"It does not handcuff the United States," said National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack, "but it does provide an avenue for the Security Council to demonstrate its relevance."

To read the U.S. draft resolution on Iraq, go to


Farley reported from the United Nations and Reynolds from Washington. Times staff writer Sonni Efron in Washington contributed to this report.

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