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U.S. and Britain Propose Tight Deadline for Hussein

Diplomacy: The sponsors of a toughly worded U.N. resolution will try to win support for it from France, Russia and China over the weekend.

September 28, 2002|MAGGIE FARLEY and TYLER MARSHALL | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

UNITED NATIONS — The United States and Britain are proposing a seven-day deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to agree to disarm and grant weapons inspectors full access to previously restricted sites or face severe consequences, U.N. diplomats said Friday.

The proposed resolution also requires Hussein to hand over within 30 days of its passage a list of all materials Iraq possesses that could be used for weapons of mass destruction, and calls for "all necessary means" to be used if Iraq continues to defy the United Nations.

A Security Council diplomat described the resolution as "very tough and very detailed." It finds Iraq in "material breach" of 16 existing U.N. resolutions and says the government must agree to "full, final and complete destruction" of any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

The "or else" clause is the problematic part, though, and U.S. and British emissaries visited Paris on Friday and will travel to Moscow and Beijing over the weekend to try to win support for the tough new resolution.

But disagreement is deeper than they anticipated, with Russian and French leaders having rejected the initial draft and the Chinese having expressed reservations in preliminary telephone conversations.

The three countries--which along with Britain and the U.S. make up the permanent members of the Security Council--have veto power over the resolution. While they are not likely to block the measure, diplomats say, they are insisting that weapons inspectors be given a chance to search suspected sites before military force is used against Iraq.

When President Bush called French President Jacques Chirac from Air Force One on Friday morning to ask for his backing, Chirac said he still opposed the automatic use of force if Iraq fails to cooperate with U.N. demands. Chirac urged Bush to subscribe to his two-stage approach, which would first let inspectors search for weapons and, if Hussein's regime balked, would require another resolution to approve an attack.

Chirac told Bush that "this is the view of the majority of the international community, given the seriousness of the decisions to be taken and their consequences," his spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, told news services.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman planned to travel from Paris to Moscow for talks today, a White House official said. Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov on Friday expressed further doubt about U.S. policy toward Iraq, saying there is as yet "no clear proof" that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. But he added that it would be an "unforgivable error" to delay the return of U.N. weapons inspectors.

China also reaffirmed its opposition to any military strike on Iraq that does not have U.N. approval. Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, in Paris for meetings, said that "if the weapons inspections do not take place, if we do not have clear proof and if we do not have the authorization of the Security Council, we cannot launch a military attack on Iraq--otherwise, there would be incalculable consequences."

Despite these differences, diplomats here expect the council to reach agreement because of the enormous stakes involved. Beyond the possibility of war in the Persian Gulf and its chaotic aftermath, the future of the United Nations as a central player in international crises may be on the line. When Bush came to the U.N. on Sept. 12, he challenged the world body to pass the resolution and prove its relevance--or stand aside for the U.S. to act alone. Friday, at a Republican fund-raising event in Denver, he took a softer approach.

"I'm willing to give peace a chance to work," he said. "I want the United Nations to work."

But he made clear that he wants it to work his way, and he wants it to work quickly.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday that the president believes a single Security Council resolution must "make clear that Saddam Hussein is in violation" of previous resolutions, "make clear what Iraq needs to do to come into compliance [and] make clear what will happen if Iraq does not come into compliance."

The draft resolution has a clear road map of the steps Hussein is expected to take. If he fails to comply, U.S. officials say, that should trigger military force.

A European diplomat said that some nations, anxious to defuse the confrontation and avoid war, will be working to soften the language of the draft in hopes of gaining Iraqi acceptance. British and U.S. diplomats, however, argue that only an extremely tough resolution can head off military action.

"The instinct of the council will be to keep the language soft so that Iraq will accept it," said one Western envoy. "But you have to have it hard in order to avoid a war."

The most recent Security Council resolution to be negotiated in capitals rather than at the United Nations was the act to authorize force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, recalled Russian Ambassador Sergei V. Lavrov.

"It's not up to us here. I haven't even seen the text yet," he said on his way out of the United Nations Friday night.

Indeed, the hard work hammering out details won't start here until next week, after presidents and premiers have had a crack at it. The 10 elected Security Council members haven't seen the draft text yet either and probably won't get a copy until Monday, after the consultations with the permanent five members have finished.

"I'll probably read about it in the Sunday paper," said Irish Ambassador Richard Ryan.

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Times staff writer James Gerstenzang in Washington contributed to this report.

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