- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

NEW YORK U.S.diplomats began yesterday to lay the groundwork for a Security Council resolution that would explicitly authorize war against Iraq, setting the stage for a showdown when U.N. weapons inspectors report to the council again tomorrow.
Foreign ministers representing at least a half-dozen council member nations announced they would attend the session.
In Brussels, NATO ambassadors again failed to agree on whether the alliance should prepare to defend Turkey against Iraqi retaliation while France a leader of the opposition said it would act on its own to assist Turkey if necessary.
Paris has intensified its objection to a second Persian Gulf war by resisting NATO involvement and by offering a "non-paper" at the United Nations that would double or even triple the number of inspectors in Iraq.
U.S. officials and Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, have said Iraq's total compliance would be more valuable than adding inspectors.
The White House yesterday said the United States was holding talks with other nations on specific language for a new resolution.
"I think it's fair to say that there are conversations under way about the language," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. He did not identify the negotiating partners, but Britain has been closely involved in planning for a second resolution since last week.
"I don't think it's going to be a complicated matter," Mr. Fleischer said of a second resolution, which is expected to explicitly authorize the use of force if Iraq fails to comply with Resolution 1441 by a fixed deadline.
"I think there will be the usual wordsmithing and discussions that take place in New York. And it still remains somewhat premature to get into the exact wording. I think many of the nations that would be involved want to see what Hans Blix reports on Friday, and then we'll have more to indicate after that," he said.
Council members Russia, China and Germany the leading doves on the 15-member body have already endorsed the French proposal to extend the inspection process indefinitely, which would not require another resolution.
They have also repeatedly called on Baghdad to cooperate more actively with inspections and to answer specific questions posed by Mr. Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The two chief inspectors are to report to the council for the second time tomorrow on Iraq's cooperation with inspection efforts.
That meeting will likely be attended by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, according to U.S. officials. Other foreign ministers racing back to New York for the third time in less than a month include Dominique de Villepin of France, Joschka Fischer of Germany, Tang Jiaxuan of China, Igor Ivanov of Russia and Jack Straw of Britain. Others were expected to confirm their plans to attend today.
Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei have just returned from Baghdad, where they won assurances from Iraqi officials that the regime would no longer impede the use of a U.S.-loaned U-2 surveillance plane, and would "encourage" scientists to speak to inspectors without a government official present.
But a panel of ballistics experts yesterday concluded that two standard Iraqi-made missiles, the Al Sammoud and the Al Fatah, both are capable of exceeding a U.N.-imposed flight limit of 90 miles.
The panel, convened at the United Nations, recommended that the missiles be destroyed.
In Iraq yesterday, a team of U.N. specialists began destroying warheads filled with mustard gas, a cache discovered by U.N. inspectors before they hastily withdrew from Iraq in 1998. The shells have been under seal ever since.
Joseph Curl in Washington contributed to this report.

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