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World Sees Unanimous U.N. Vote as Triumph of Diplomacy

November 10, 2002|Jeffrey Fleishman | Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — The unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq was hailed by countries around the world Saturday as a diplomatic victory in which Washington's harsh rhetoric toward Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was tempered over months by a restrained international approach articulated by France and Russia.

True, Europe's left-leaning newspapers viewed the U.N. vote as a coup for an imperialist U.S.

"The capitulation of the world to the irresistible will of the last emperor was total and was only slightly masked by the requirement to go through the U.N. tollbooth before launching the attack," said an editorial in the Rome daily La Repubblica. "George Bush needs only to wait for Saddam Hussein to give him a pretext within a maximum of 45 days to pull the triggers."

But observers in many capitals saw the unanimous resolution as proof that the U.S. could not bully the globe into an immediate war. Russia, France, China and other Security Council members "managed to exclude from the draft the most unacceptable wordings, including clauses stipulating the automatic unilateral use of force," said Yuri Fedotov, Russia's deputy foreign minister. "Most important is that a compromise has been achieved and the international community has prevented a real threat of war."

Indeed, expecting to win one or two vetoes and a handful of abstentions, Baghdad was left with no supporting voice on the Security Council. Even Syria, a Muslim neighbor, voted for the resolution. The result was a testament not only to U.S. global influence but to the fact that many nations -- after a recent bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali and a hostage crisis at a Moscow theater -- are increasingly alarmed by terrorism.

China's yes vote, for example, came as a surprise to some diplomats who had expected the country to abstain, just as it did in a similar vote in the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But a desire not to upset relations with the U.S., especially after President Jiang Zemin's recent visit to President Bush's ranch in Texas, apparently nudged Beijing to support the resolution. So did a wish to be considered a key player on the world stage.

Like most nations, however, China warned that the resolution does not give the U.S. carte blanche for military action.

"We would like to stress that the Security Council shoulder the responsibility for safeguarding international peace and security," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan.

Russia's acceptance of the resolution was partly influenced by last month's hostage standoff with Chechen rebels, which ended in about 120 deaths. The crisis was Russia's psychological equivalent to the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. and emboldened the Kremlin to widen its war on terrorism.

"The positions of the Kremlin and the White House have grown visibly closer," said Igor M. Klyamkin, director of the Institute of Sociological Analysis in Moscow.

Arab governments -- many of which privately support the overthrow of Hussein -- reacted to the U.N. resolution with relief. They saw it as a triumph for months of diplomacy waged by the 22-member Arab League and as a defeat for U.S. policies.

"This is a victory for reason and a victory for attempts to defuse a dangerous situation in a region already pregnant with tension," said Nabil Osman, spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"The vote was a victory for the U.N. and a setback for America's go-it-alone attitudes," said Jamal Kashoggi, deputy editor of the Arab News in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. "Now the Arabs are happy. Everyone is happy except Saddam Hussein."

Still, Japan and Germany are wondering how they will respond if war becomes inevitable. Japan's constitution forbids the offensive use of military force, although defining what that means is a game of semantics. The country struggles with deep internal divisions over the role of the military and with the concerns of wary Asian neighbors whose territory it occupied during World War II.

Japanese newspapers suggested that Tokyo would balk at sending its sophisticated Aegis-equipped destroyer to the Persian Gulf, a move viewed as too aggressive. And in a meeting Friday with U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, Tokyo apparently hedged its bets. Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi was quoted as saying Japan would delay its decision.

In Germany, meanwhile, the unanimous U.N. vote was causing "legitimacy" problems for the government, according to politicians and commentators.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won reelection in September in large part because he tapped into German pacifism by saying he would refuse to send troops into a war with Iraq. Now, with a strongly worded resolution that could result in an invasion, Germany seems to be standing isolated from the club of major powers. What's more, this comes two months before Germany is scheduled to take a seat as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council.

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