- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 11 (UPI) — Representatives of more than two dozen nations spoke at the first of at least two U.N. Security Council held formal debates on Iraq Tuesday, while diplomats worked behind the scenes to reach a compromise on a new draft resolution.

The debate resumes Wednesday afternoon. There were 42 speakers on the list Tuesday. It was anticipated there could be more signing up Wednesday.

While only two of the speakers endorsed military action against Iraq outright, Albania and Australia, barely a handful more supported the tough Britain-Spain-U.S. approach and the overwhelming majority was for continued inspections of Iraq for weapons of mass destruction with no threat of war.

The alliance's measure, offered Friday with a March 17, or-else deadline, faces veto threats from France and Russia. China and Syria also oppose it outright. Supporting the alliance bid for military action from the first was Bulgaria and now Albania and Australia. Other qualified support came for military action as a last resort.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China are the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the council. A negative vote by any one would stop a measure.

The March 7 draft resolution said the inspection-authorizing Resolution 1441 of Nov. 8 which demanded that it comply with earlier resolutions by cooperating with inspectors to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction or face "serious consequences," and unless it "demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation," by March 17 "it will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded."

It was generally agreed among diplomats in the corridors outside the council chamber the deadline was doomed. Many felt it was not "realistic" to have such a short time between whenever the resolution would come to a vote, now not expected before Thursday by most, and next Monday. There was also division over whether a list of tasks to be met, benchmarks, or a timeline for compliance, should be laid out in a new draft.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri, the first to speak in the council, attempted to rebut a lengthy list of "false" allegations from the alliance, pleading to convince ambassadors Baghdad was following the council's dictate.

"We leave it to you to ascertain the truth of such allegations," he said. "They show the bankruptcy of the U.S. administration in attempting to convince the international community of the truthfulness of its allegations. The issue ultimately is in the hands of U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. It is UNMOVIC that is to reach its conclusions."

Said Aldouri, "Iraq is aware that since the start of our dealing of this matter, that the United States of America and Britain will put in doubt any result reached because their goal is not disarmament, a disarmament which in effect has been achieved and they know this as will be ascertained by UNMOVIC and International Atomic Energy Agency soon.

"Rather their objective is to lay their hands on our oil, to control the region; to redraw its borders in order to insure the vital interests of the United States of America for a long period to come," he said. "This is a new direct colonization of the region."

Aldouri maintained "that Iraq has taken the strategic decision to rid itself of WMD. Had this decision not been the right decision, it would not have cooperated with UNMOVIC. Today Iraq … reiterates its readiness to cooperate in a fruitful and constructive manner in a way that will lead to the decision that WMD no long exist in Iraq and the lifting of sanctions imposed" by the council for failing to cooperate with inspections as part of its 1991 Persian Gulf War cease-fire accord.

"We shall respond to the fabrication of false allegations that justify war against us," Baghdad's envoy said. "Iraq reaffirms that peaceful means, dialogue and cooperation are the shortest and the best means to resolve the current crisis.

"My delegation, through you, calls on the International Community to prevent a catastrophe, which has now become imminent. We call on the Security Council. We call on the secretary-general of the United Nations, to shoulder their responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of the charter of the United Nations, their responsibility to thwart any aggression aimed at Iraq."

Ambassador John Dauth of Australia said the international community did not ask that Iraq should put on a display of piecemeal cooperation, but dictated disarmament verified by inspectors.

"The Security Council must recognize that threats to international security have changed," he said. "It must deal with the borderless scourge of international terrorism and risk of illicit traffic in prohibited and dual-use items. The threat of terrorism is made worse by the possibility that terrorists could get hold of chemical and biological weapons.

"For this reason, it is urgent that the Security Council confront this risk by disarming nations that build those weapons and defy international non-proliferation norms," said Canberra's envoy. "Failure to do so will increase both the immediate threat and set a precedent that we will all come to regret.

"The Security Council must mean what it says and countries must live up to their obligations," Dauth told the open session of the panel of 15.

"This council expressed its resolve when - in its 18th resolution on the issue - it decided to give Iraq one last chance in Res. 1441," said Dauth. "Iraq has failed to take the chance. But even now, the best and perhaps last hope of achieving a peaceful solution is for the Security Council to send a clear message to Iraq through a new resolution that it must disarm fully."

Just hours before the envoys took their seats around the horseshoe-shaped table, UNMOVIC said it called off two high-flying U.S. U-2 spy planes from reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

"I can confirm that two U-2 reconnaissance aircraft operating on behalf of UNMOVIC operated in Iraqi airspace this morning," said Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman. "Although Iraq had been notified of a flight-time window, they expressed surprise and concern when two flights were operating simultaneously. In the interests of safety UNMOVIC requested the aircraft to withdraw. Further U2 and Mirage Reconnaissance flights are still planned."

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U-2s were never directly threatened in the air.

"We want them resumed because UNMOVIC wants them resumed," he said, saying there apparently was a communication breakdown.

The secretary said Iraq's objections would not seem unreasonable.

At first it was feared around U.N. headquarters the United States might have been trying to provoke an incident that would touch off a war, but the idea was quickly dismissed.

Still, it demonstrated the level of tension generated by so many alliance troops, nearly 300,000, in Iraq's front and back yards.

Earlier, the Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday Britain was circulating a new compromise draft. It supposedly made a list of new tests Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would have to pass to avoid war.

The list demanded that Iraqi scientists be taken out of the country for interviews where they will be free from intimidation. It also wanted the destruction of banned weapons and the provision of documents explaining what happened to the remaining arms, the newspaper said.

The compromise would see the March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm pushed back "by a few days," a council source told the newspaper. The news report said Washington approved of the plan.

However, no other council members said they saw the compromise plan.

"Nothing is on paper," was the frequent reply from council diplomats asked about the text of a possible new draft.

The move to compromise was aimed at winning over the undecided, non-permanent members of the council — Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan.

In Iraq itself, officials announced what they presented as further evidence of Iraq's compliance with U.N. regulations. Brig. Hussam Muhammad Amin, head of the Iraqi National Monitoring Department, said Tuesday that a committee of international experts acknowledged that al Fatah missiles possessed by Iraq were within the permitted range of 93 miles.

It was the first time that Iraq referred to the international committee of experts from Germany, Russia, Britain and Ukraine.

However, a spokesman for the inspection teams at U.N. headquarters denied the conclusion, telling United Press International that whether al Fatah missiles exceeded the limit "is still under consideration."

International arms inspectors continued their searches Tuesday of Iraqi sites suspected of producing weapons of mass destruction.

A briefing by the Iraqi information ministry said a team of missile experts inspected a factory making batteries in central Baghdad, while a biological team searched a packing plant in the province of Karbala, 60 miles south of the Iraqi capital.

Inspectors were still investigating the drone aircraft that Iraq had developed. Bush administration officials criticized Blix for not mentioning the drones in his report Friday, and Blix conceded the 24-foot wingspan of one of the drones could translate into an illegal range or ability to stay up in the air. But the drones themselves are not inherently illegal. He did, however, mention drones a 167-page report on "clusters" of outstanding questions for Iraq to answer.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to that document in his remarks to the council last Friday.

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