- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2002

France proposed yesterday that the United Nations authorize force if Iraq fails to comply with a resolution requiring that it eliminate its weapons of mass destruction.
The French proposal was billed as an offer of new "ideas" for a U.N. resolution on Iraq, and the State Department yesterday denied there was an impasse in negotiations among United Nations' leading members over how to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"Reports that there is a deadlock or a split or some breakdown are wrong," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"We're working it, we're still in touch with the other countries," he said.
But the discussions, now in their fourth week, remain snagged on a basic disagreement over how to force Iraq to comply with past Security Council mandates to disarm.
South Africa, head of the 130-member Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations, meanwhile, said yesterday that the world should solve the Iraq crisis without resorting to force.
Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's U.N. ambassador, requested that NAM ambassadors be allowed to address the council today before it enters "uncharted territory."
"We welcome the announcement by Iraq to allow the return of the U.N. weapons inspectors without any conditions," he said. "This offers the prospect for a peaceful resolution."
Dozens of ambassadors are expected to address the council in marathon sessions today and tomorrow.
The United States and Britain, who have circulated a joint draft, favor a single resolution spelling out the demands on Iraq and authorizing the use of force against Baghdad if Saddam fails to comply.
France, one of the five veto-wielding members of the council, has led the push for two resolutions one spelling out what Iraq must do and a second outlining the consequences in the event of Iraqi defiance.
"The Americans want strong language," said a diplomat, "so fine. The Security Council will decide any measure, including the use of force."
The language surpasses that of the U.S.-British draft, which calls only for member states to use "all necessary means" to enforce U.N. mandates against Iraq.
John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met French counterpart Jean-David Levitte on Monday. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who discussed the state of the U.N. talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the State Department yesterday, said the French discussions set off a new round of talks.
"They had some ideas. We'll be responding to those ideas, and we'll see how things unfold," Mr. Powell said.
Passage of a council resolution requires nine "yes" votes from its 15 members and no vetos from its five permanent members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.
Diplomats said the U.S.-British resolution would not get the majority needed, but that an agreement between Paris and Washington would probably clear the way for full council approval.
"The Americans have given an inch, the French have given an inch," the U.N. diplomat familiar with the backroom negotiating said yesterday. He acknowledged that the two sides "are still this far apart," holding his hands about a dinner plate's width apart.
With the council scheduled to begin a two-day open debate on Iraq today, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac conferred yesterday by phone, the Kremlin reported.
Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, said after briefing the council yesterday that his team would not return to Iraq, where they have been barred since 1998, until a new resolution is approved.
Betsy Pisik, in New York, contributed to this report.
"We have waited now for nearly four years so we have to have a little patience," he said.
Mr. Blix said in his briefing that Iraq was still balking at some of the ground rules for the inspectors' return, despite an "unconditional' acceptance by Saddam last month for their return.

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