- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 13 (UPI) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in an unprecedented move to break the diplomatic deadlock on Iraq, Thursday called in each of the 15-member Security Council ambassadors for private, one-on-one discussions.

Later the 15 met behind closed doors for 3 hours, but failed to come up with an accord to avoid an allied military attack on Iraq. However, the so-called "undecided" six-members of the panel worked into the night to find a possible solution.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte gave diplomats a little breathing room when he announced Washington was not seeking a vote Friday on the March 7 draft resolution it co-sponsored with Britain and Spain calling for Iraqi compliance with earlier council resolutions by March 17, Monday.

Saying that he didn't think much progress had been made from Wednesday's sessions, Washington's envoy said, "In diplomacy sometimes you have to give the process a little bit of time to work." But then he quickly added, "At the same time, I would have to say that time is really running out."

Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France representing of the opposition to the alliance proposals, said, "I think we went to the very core of the problems. Many delegations expressed the view that authorizing force while progress is being made toward our goal, which is to disarm Iraq peacefully, would be wrong, and that a resolution on war was not a good basis for the unity of the council."

Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of Britain said he thought the British proposals sparked a "lot of interest."

"I think what we have started has lot of interest," he told reporters. "There are a lot of queries about what we are doing. That is natural. There are people who would like to wait for (chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans) Blix's work program next week, but we have made the cardinal point that there has to be a strong signal that there is a strategic change by Iraq into full cooperation with the inspectors before we can get into a work program that would be effective to complete disarmament.

"That is the basis of our proposals, to establish that there has been a basic strategic decision and any other approach is not going to work unless it takes that into account," said London's envoy.

Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, who sat in on the consultations Thursday, reportedly has promised to have the program of work remaining to be done in Iraq for the council early next week.

"So, there will be activity around that continuing into tomorrow, I am sure into the weekend. Let us see if we can produce results that will change the character of this debate into something that achieves steps toward complete disarmament."

Given the gravity of the matter and lateness of the hour, Greenstock was asked the chances of the "military overtaking" diplomacy.

"Well, there is not enough concern it seems to produce momentum to establishing what I've just said," he said, "and that needs further discussion tomorrow.

"The discussion is not finishing. I am sure there will be people who will be discussing after this meeting where they will want to go on that."

They were, indeed, continuing to talk.

Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan, one of the undecided six countries, said, "The six are just trying to be helpful. We are trying. It's a difficult situation."

Islamabad's envoy said, "At the moment there is no clear way out. But we are trying and we should continue to try tomorrow (Friday)."

Asked about how Wednesday's six-point proposal by Britain was doing, he said it was still "under discussion.

"There have been various comments on the proposal," he said. "I don't think that anybody expected that it would be embraced immediately, but I think there were very honest comments on the proposal and a very open discussion and let's see if it can regain traction when the council resumes" closed-door consultations Friday.

Diplomats said that as a result of a flurry of meetings of the six swing vote states, both on and off the main campus of U.N. headquarters, they had decided to seek a deadline of weeks, rather than days, as in the still-on-the-table Britain-Spain-U.S. draft, or the months Blix has said would take to really get a reading on inspections, not just reach benchmarks.

They were also seeking the peaceful disarmament of Iraq through a measure that did not automatically call for military action if not heeded, diplomats said.

"The six are now working on a paper," said de La Sabliere. "We will see the outcome of that," adding that they could have it as early as Friday.

London's Wednesday offering called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to: (1) Make a public statement on television admitting that he has hidden weapons of mass destruction and will destroy them; (2) Allow 30 scientists named by the U.N. weapons inspectors to travel abroad with their families to be interviewed; (3) Produce or account for 10,000 liters of missing anthrax;(4) destroy all banned missiles and rocket engines; (5) Explain and hand over the drone reconnaissance plane found by the U.N.; (6) Destroy the mobile biological warfare laboratories he is suspected of having.

"This is not the right approach," said de la Sabliere. "The right approach is to adopt a program of cooperating benchmarks. We think it is really possible to disarm Iraq through peaceful means in a period of time, which is not very long."

Asked the Paris envoy, "Why go to war if the job can be done peacefully in a limited period of time?"

Chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Annan's series of talks with ambassadors began Wednesday and ended Thursday afternoon.

"Unprecedented," Eckhard told United Press International when asked how unusual the meetings were, adding that a computer search of the secretary-general's appointments showed that while he had called in individual, or clusters of ambassadors, never before had Annan called in all 15 for private sessions on a single topic in his 38th floor office at U.N. headquarters overlooking the East River.

The view from there on a rainy, foggy Thursday was as grim as the outlook for the debate for a second draft resolution on Iraq.

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