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U.S. Has Hope for Anti-Iraq Resolution

France and Russia show resistance to the new draft, which gives them some concessions but still contains items they had earlier opposed.

October 22, 2002|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — The United States handed its draft resolution against Iraq to the other four veto-holding members of the Security Council on Monday, and despite signs of resistance, U.S. officials said they were optimistic that they would have agreement on it by the end of the week.

"It's time to wrap this up," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in Washington.

After more than five weeks of negotiations in world capitals and at U.N. headquarters, U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte gave copies of the full U.S. proposal to the ambassadors from Britain, France, Russia and China.

The proposed resolution calls for a "much tougher and much more effective" inspection system, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, and "makes clear that there will be serious consequences if Saddam Hussein fails to honor his obligation."

The draft circulated Monday demands Iraq accept the terms of the resolution within seven days and provide a full declaration of any weapons of mass destruction within 30 days of its passage. Any subsequent discovery of weapons not listed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would be considered a violation of the resolution, Fleischer said.

"If they fail to list, and then any are discovered, Iraq would have again violated a resolution," he said. "We will have zero tolerance for any violations of a U.N. resolution."

While sticking to a tough bottom line, the draft represents an important concession to France, which wants to ensure that the measure doesn't trigger the automatic use of force if Iraq hampers weapons inspections. Washington's compromise, first floated last week, pledges that the U.S. would consult with the council before taking military action against Iraq, although it would not have to wait for U.N. authorization to act.

U.S. officials said negotiators had "made progress" in a weekend of back-and-forth discussions between Washington and Paris, sometimes by way of mediators in London. They said they expected to have a deal completed by the end of this week, and would accept only minor changes to the U.S. proposal.

"If there is a new resolution, it will come from this text," said a Bush administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But France's ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, said before Monday's meeting that the council members were divided on how tough the resolution should be. Asked if Paris was close to agreement on the resolution, he said: "I don't think so."

Russian diplomats also signaled that they were expecting the U.S. proposal to compromise more than it did. The draft includes nods to Russian demands that Iraq be guaranteed suspension of crippling economic sanctions in return for cooperation, as well as a statement of regret that the restrictions have caused suffering.

But the text still contains conditions that France and Russia had opposed, such as requiring that Iraqi experts be allowed to leave the country for interviews. Iraq considers that provision a violation of its citizens' rights and also a possible invitation to defect.

The 10 elected members of the Security Council, and at times even permanent members Russia and China, have said they felt out of the loop. While Britain has been working closely with the U.S. on the resolution, even crafting last-minute compromise language, Monday was the first time Russia and China had been formally given a draft.

The draft puts down several significant legal markers, declaring that "Iraq is still, and has been for a number of years, in material breach of its obligations" as regards U.N. resolutions requiring it to disarm. It also says "false statements or omissions" in Baghdad's weapons declaration or "failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully" with the resolution will be a further material breach. The finding of a "material breach" could be used as a trigger for military action.

Washington has argued that Iraq's past violations, plus the United States' right to self-defense, are enough to justify unilateral action against Iraq. Some Security Council members disagree. Washington says that it is giving Iraq "one more chance" to disarm and that if Baghdad fails to do so, the entire Security Council will implicitly agree that the use of force is warranted by signing off on the resolution.

"This is a tough resolution," said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's got to be one that brings about disarmament in Iraq, and to do that it's got to be very, very tough."

In Washington, the administration finessed the question of just how tough the United States wanted to be with Hussein.

On a Sunday talk show, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell reiterated his earlier suggestions that Hussein could stay in power if he disarmed. But President Bush, asked Monday before a meeting with George Robertson, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's secretary-general, whether Hussein could remain Iraq's leader if he met all U.S. conditions, said the Iraqi leader had shown no indication that he would take such a step.

"We don't believe he's going to change," Bush said. "If he were going to meet all the conditions of the United Nations ... that in itself would signal that the regime has changed."

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Times staff writer Paul Richter in Washington contributed to this report.

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