- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration, bolstered by unprecedented Republican gains in midterm elections, pressed the United Nations yesterday for a yes-or-no vote to disarm Iraq and threaten its leader, Saddam Hussein, with military action if he refuses to cooperate.
After two months of closed-door talks, the United States formally introduced a redrafted resolution on Iraq to the 15-nation Security Council, which tentatively scheduled a vote for tomorrow.
The six-page document sets out terms for U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad after a four-year absence and threatens "serious consequences" if Baghdad does not cooperate. The inspectors' goal is to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.
Though diplomats in New York said otherwise, Tuesday's election in the United States was widely viewed in the Arab world as a mandate from American voters for President Bush to attack Iraq.
"The possibilities of waging war on Iraq are now greater than ever," Saudi political analyst Khaled al-Ghamdi told the Associated Press.
The new U.S. draft promises that the council will reconvene to discuss problems encountered by weapons inspectors, but it does not bind the Americans to wait for council approval to strike militarily.
The council is scheduled to debate the resolution today and vote on it as early as tomorrow.
If the council approves the draft, weapons inspectors could return to Iraq by early December.
The U.S. draft retreats from many unpopular earlier demands, which sparked resistance from council members France, Russia and China, all of whom have veto power. The United States and Britain, which backs the resolution, also have vetoes.
U.S. officials said yesterday that their primary requirements definitive inspections backed by the threat of force remained intact.
"This is the best way to achieve the disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means obviously, provided that Iraq complies fully with those obligations," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.
After weeks of tortuous negotiations and late-night phone calls between world capitals, the resolution attempts to reconcile Washington's insistence on the right to attack and France's demand that it return to the council for a separate authorization of war if Iraq blocks inspectors.
"What this resolution says is if there are violations of the terms of the resolution and of Iraq's disarmament obligations, this is a matter that will be brought to the council for discussion and assessment," Mr. Negroponte told reporters after briefing the council.
"The resolution does not prejudge what might happen after that stage."
The new draft was implicitly endorsed by France, a former holdout.
"What we want for this enhanced regime is a clear rule of the game," said French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte.
Russia's U.N. ambassador, Sergey Lavrov, said he still had problems with the latest version because it appears to automatically validate the use of force if Washington finds Iraq to be resisting inspections.
Iraq's U.N. ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, fingering a marked-up copy of the text, said, "The whole resolution is very bad."
Diplomats from nonpermanent members of the Security Council, including representatives of Singapore and Mexico, indicated that they would seek guidance from their capitals.
Syria, the sole Arab member of the council, remained opposed to the Iraq resolution yesterday.
Nine yes votes are required to approve the resolution.
The draft uses the phrase "material breach" of council resolutions, considered a legal basis for the use of force.
The first test could come within a month of the resolution's adoption, when Iraq is required to declare all its proscribed chemical, nuclear and biological weapons activities. Any omissions would be considered a material breach, according to the draft.
The draft resolution spells out the scope of U.N. weapons inspections by demanding "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access" to any and all sites, facilities, documents, archives, officials, scientists and other points of curiosity.
It overturns an earlier agreement between Iraq and the council that protected eight presidential palaces from surprise inspections.
Tuesday's Republican landslide is likely to solidify congressional support for war with Iraq, but it will have little bearing on the debate and vote, several diplomats said.
"I think it's irrelevant to the decision-making of the council," one U.S. official said.
But judging from yesterday's reaction in the Arab world, the U.S. election had demonstrated that for good or bad Mr. Bush enjoyed broad support in the United States.
"[It] means that the administration's agenda will be accomplished including the liberation of Iraq," said Abdul-Ridha Aseeri, a professor at Kuwait University.
Many Arab commentators reacted to the election with fear that it foreshadowed a U.S. push to dominate the Middle East.
"We are dealing with a power that has no limit in its dealing with foreign issues," said Mohammed Shaker, head of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Relations.
Salama Ahmed Salama, a columnist for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram, predicted that Mr. Bush "will be much more powerful, more brutal" because of the election.
"He will try to pursue his war on terrorism everywhere," Mr. Salama said. "He will be tougher on regimes he does not like."

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