- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

NEW YORK The U.N. Security Council unanimously presented Iraq with an ultimatum yesterday to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors and disarm or face certain military action.
The 15-0 vote, a powerful and unprecedented endorsement of the Bush administration's tough line against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, capped eight weeks of increasingly complex negotiations between Washington and other world capitals.
"The resolution approved today presents the Iraqi regime with a test, a final test," President Bush told reporters at the White House just moments after the council vote.
Indicating Washington's willingness to put military might behind the diplomatic demands, Mr. Bush added, "The United States prefers that Iraq meet its obligations voluntarily, yet we are prepared for the alternative. In either case, the just demands of the world will be met."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters in London that the message of the U.N. vote to Iraq was: "Disarm or you face force. Be under no doubt whatsoever of that."
The Iraqi government had no immediate comment on the vote, and Baghdad's state-run television did not report the news.
"Iraq will certainly study the resolution and decide whether we can accept it or not," said Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohammed al-Douri.
Immediately after the vote, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said he would lead an advance team to Baghdad on Nov. 18.
Diplomats said they were pleasantly surprised to find that persistent holdouts Russia and Syria agreed to join the resolution, which was co-sponsored by Britain.
The 15-0 vote both reaffirms the central role of the United Nations in resolving conflicts and potentially shores up the relationship between the organization and the Republican administration in Washington, U.N. and foreign diplomats said. Mr. Bush repeatedly challenged the organization to act or risk losing "relevance" in the face of Iraq's repeated defiance of U.N. mandates.
The unanimous vote also deals a stronger hand to U.N. weapons inspectors, who in the past have been subject to Iraqi harassment, deception and threats.
"We were very pleased that the resolution was adopted by unanimity that strengthens our mandate very much," Mr. Blix said.
The final resolution, six pages of carefully crafted diplomatic language, demands complete and immediate access to all Iraqi facilities, and sets out a strict timetable for weapons inspections to begin. It also holds out the implicit threat of force at nearly any stage.
The Iraqi government has until Friday to formally accept the terms of Resolution 1441.
Baghdad must then file before December 7 a complete declaration of its chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons programs. This document will provide the starting point for U.N. inspections and is the first substantive test of Iraq's commitment to cooperate.
"For 11 years, without success, we have tried a variety of ways, including diplomacy, inspections and economic sanctions to obtain Iraqi compliance," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte after the vote yesterday.
"By this resolution, we are now united in trying a different course. That course is to send a clear message to Iraq insisting on its disarmament in the area of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems or face the consequences," he said.
In response to French and Russian demands, the resolution calls for the council to immediately "consider" inspectors' complaints of noncompliance. However, U.S. officials and other diplomats made it clear that they are not obligated to wait for council permission to act militarily if Iraq does not cooperate.
"This resolution does not constrain any member-state from acting to defend itself against the threat posed by Iraq or to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions, and protect world peace and security," Mr. Negroponte said.
But in their public comments during a dramatic morning debate, several Security Council nations remained leery of the prospect of unilateral force, despite American diplomats' efforts to assure them that the resolution contained no "hidden triggers."
France, Russia, China, Ireland and Mexico were among those nations urging restraint yesterday, referring to the language in the resolution that calls on the council to convene immediately to discuss any infractions and decide how to proceed.
"The resolution strengthens the role and authority of the Security Council," said French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte. "We had reflected that objective in our request for a two-stage approach so as to ensure that the Security Council maintains control of the process at each stage."
Those assurances, combined with high-level arm-twisting, apparently were enough for Syria, the only Arab nation on the Security Council.
"My country voted in favor after receiving reassurances that the resolution would not be used as pretext to strike Iraq," said Syria's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Faysal Mekdad, who noted that last-minute phone calls from American, British, French and Russian leaders swayed Damascus' vote.
Syria has repeatedly questioned why the United States would go to war to readmit weapons inspectors but defend Israel over what it called repeated human rights violations. Syria's vote could be an important source of leverage when Washington tries to build regional support for war.
U.S. and British officials worked the phones incessantly for the past week, diplomats said, to soothe concerns and meet objections from France and Russia, both of which could have vetoed the final measure.
Washington worked especially hard to win Moscow's support, including refusing to condemn publicly the army's lethal use of gas to end a recent hostage standoff and agreeing to add some Chechen groups to international terrorist lists.
Yesterday, Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
"Implementation of the resolution requires goodwill of all involved," Mr. Lavrov said in an apparent message to Washington and Baghdad. He called on the parties to "concentrate on moving forward and not [yield] to unilateral interpretation of the resolution."
In the two months since Mr. Bush challenged the United Nations to uphold its own resolutions, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has postponed foreign trips and has labored during international meetings to win support for key U.S. demands.
In the end, council members said, Baghdad was unquestionably obligated to cooperate with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

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