- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

NEW YORK Russia and France yesterday offered stiff resistance to a new U.S.-sponsored resolution on Iraq, even as U.N. inspectors insisted in a meeting with senior Iraqi officials on unfettered access to suspected weapons sites.
Russia and France, both veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, indicated that they would not accept Washington's attempt to rewrite existing council resolutions to shorten the timeline for inspections.
"We do not want to give carte blanche to military action. That is why we cannot accept a resolution authorizing, as of now, the recourse to force without [the issue] coming back to the U.N. Security Council," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was quoted as saying in yesterday's Le Monde newspaper.
France is advocating a more gently worded two-tier resolution that Washington says would delay a military response if Iraq failed to comply. China, which also has a Security Council veto, Russia and others endorse that approach.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, meanwhile, viewed "with regret" U.S. and British air strikes this weekend along the southern no-fly zone.
"Anglo-American bombing raids in no-fly zones not only deepen the complicated atmosphere around Iraq but create obstacles in the search of a political-diplomatic settlement of the Iraq question," the spokesman said.
In the draft resolution by the United States, which is backed by Britain, Baghdad would have seven days to accept the resolution's demands and 30 days to submit to inspectors a comprehensive declaration of its program to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The new draft would toss out earlier ill-defined restrictions on the inspection of dozens of "presidential sites."
Iraq's failure to comply with any aspect of the inspection process, under the new resolution, would be declared a "material breach" of the council's will, a loaded diplomatic phrase that justifies military action.
"We believe the resolution is tough, it's reasonable and it accomplishes what our objectives are, which is to disarm Iraq," said a U.S. official. "We think it lays out the details for the Iraqis. Anything less than what we're laying out isn't going to do the trick."
But other Security Council nations aren't so sure.
Each of the 15 members have urged Baghdad to readmit inspectors and avert a war, but many have reservations about the hastened U.S. timetable and its consequences.
Several have said that the existing resolutions are sufficient, and there is no need to draft stronger language.
U.S. officials briefed the 10 elected, non-veto-wielding members of the Security Council yesterday afternoon.
Council members remain concerned about Washington's insistence on "regime change," which far exceeds U.N. mandates.
Meanwhile, the Iraqis said this weekend that they agreed on Sept. 16 to the existing demands, not to the new ones circulated by the United States and Britain.
The United States is in a race against time to get a new resolution passed before the inspectors return to Iraq, which chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix yesterday indicated could happen "around the middle of October."
If the inspectors go back under the old resolutions, it will be even more difficult for Washington to press for a new resolution.
Mr. Blix met in Vienna, Austria, yesterday with Iraqi officials to sort out myriad practical aspects of the U.N. commission's return, including long-term accommodations for staff, the handling of potentially dangerous chemical samples and other relatively routine matters.
"The purpose of the talks is that we'd like to ensure that if and when inspections come about we will not have clashes inside, we [would] rather go through these things outside in advance," Mr. Blix told reporters yesterday.
In Washington, U.S. officials said they were watching the Vienna meetings "very closely," to discern Iraq's attitudes.
Iraq and the U.N. inspectors are to continue talking today, and Mr. Blix expects to brief the Security Council on Thursday.

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