Security Panel Talks on Iraq End Bitterly

Mike Friedman mikedf at
Fri Feb 28 10:18:16 MST 2003

Security Panel Talks on Iraq End Bitterly
Thu Feb 27, 4:07 PM ET

By DAFNA LINZER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - A Security Council meeting on Iraq ended in bitter
disagreement Thursday with council members unable to agree on basic issues
such as a timetable for weapons inspectors to report next to the council.

Diplomats described a terrible atmosphere within the council, which met
behind closed doors for four hours Thursday.

The council is split between those who are supporting the Bush
administration's calls for the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein (news
- web sites), and d others, led by the French, who want to continue weapons

At the end of the session, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said
the majority of the council still opposed a U.S.-backed draft resolution
and he pushed the French proposal for additional time for inspections.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte didn't speak with reporters though
Washington's quest for support on its resolution appeared to be picking up
steam with several undecided council members.

Still, ambassadors who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Americans
seemed unwilling to compromise in order to achieve council unity on Iraq.

Ambassadors said there was little actual discussion about the merits of the
U.S. resolution, which is backed by Britain and Spain, or the French
proposal. And they couldn't agree on when the chief inspectors should next
report to the council or how they should proceed with their work in the

Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)'s office was reviewing a
17-page report from chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix detailing the
work of his staff in Iraq over the past three months.

In the report, Blix says inspections have produced "very limited" results
so far, according to diplomats who read the report.

Other sections of the report cited positive examples of Iraqi cooperation,
but said it was "hard to understand why a number of the measures which are
now being taken could not have been initiated earlier. If they had been
taken earlier, they might have borne fruit," Blix wrote.

Blix said Wednesday that Iraq still hasn't committed to disarming but he
appeared to push for continued weapons inspections as a peaceful way to
disarm Saddam Hussein.

Russia has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but in a
telephone call Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web
sites) and President Bush (news - web sites) pledged to continue
consultations on Iraq, the Kremlin said.

"Both sides expressed the intention to increase work in the U.N. Security
Council with the purpose of developing a plan of action that would
guarantee the interests of the entire world community," the Kremlin press
service said in a statement.

Bush said Wednesday that while the Iraqi regime still has time to avoid
war, U.S. troops are ready for battle. He called on allies for their support.

"The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or
wished away," Bush said in Washington.

The U.S. draft resolution authorizing war was presented earlier this week
by the United States, Britain and Spain.

There was some evidence that Bush was gaining ground for military action,
including signals that Mexico had changed its strong anti-war stance and
was now preparing to back the U.S.-driven resolution.

Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca was in Pakistan on Thursday to
lobby for its vote.

Islamabad has not revealed whether it would support the U.S. resolution,
although Pakistani diplomats had said privately they would likely abstain
in any vote. There's almost no possibility that Pakistan would vote against
the United States, and some within President Pervez Musharaff's
administration say Islamabad is considered voting with Washington.

But some undecided council countries, such as Chile, pushed for a Canadian
plan aimed at reconciling bitter differences between the U.S. resolution
and the French-led proposal. Chile's ambassador said Mexico also was
interested in finding a middle ground within the council.

The Bush administration on Wednesday rejected the Canadian ideas, which
were aimed at giving Iraq until the end of March to complete a list of
disarmament tasks that inspectors are compiling.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the proposal "only
procrastinates on a decision we all should be prepared to take."

Meanwhile, State Department officials continued to press Bush's case in
world capitals, and some U.S. officials said intense negotiations to stave
off a veto from Russia yielded some results.

The administration may have won new ammunition for its position from Blix.
He said Wednesday, shortly before submitting a quarterly update on his
team's work, that Baghdad has not taken "a fundamental decision" to disarm.

Blix welcomed recent Iraqi letters that contained new information about its
weapons programs but said they did not represent "full cooperation or a

Nonetheless, he noted that inspections resumed only in November after a
four-year break and asked: "Is it the right time to close the door?"

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