- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday backed down on some of its conditions for a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq, but insisted it had neither caved in to French demands for two resolutions nor limited U.S. ability to use force.
The United States has sought a single resolution that explicitly authorizes military force if Iraq fails to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.
Other Security Council members want two resolutions, one on toughening the weapons inspections rules on Iraq, with a second one to come later describing the consequences should Baghdad block the inspectors.
Diplomats, who spoke to reporters at the United Nations on the condition of anonymity, said that the United States was pushing a reworded resolution that waters down some of the threats against Iraq.
The reworded resolution would not explicitly threaten force, instead mentioning less-explicit "consequences," and would also require the United States to consult with the Security Council again before taking any military action.
A U.S. official last night told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity that while no agreement had been reached with the French, who can veto any U.N. Security Council resolution, Americans are "holding firm to one resolution, with a reference to consequences."
The official acknowledged that the U.S. was circulating a reworded draft, but declined to discuss the changes.
"We are exchanging language with the French," the official said last night. "We are trying to work out an agreement."
Late last night, a diplomat at the United Nations told Reuters news agency that France appeared favorably disposed to the new U.S. proposal.
"So far the U.S. changes are acceptable to France," the diplomat said, adding that negotiations between Paris and Washington were continuing.
A senior White House official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the new U.S. wording says the government of Saddam Hussein would be in "material breach" if it violates any U.N. resolution. The term "material breach" allowed for military action to be taken in Kosovo in 1999.
The official said that therefore Mr. Bush would have "maximum flexibility" to use force without a second resolution, should Saddam fail to comply.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told a Security Council hearing last night that the United States would introduce a new U.N. resolution shortly.
"We are considering the reactions we have received and will be placing before the council, in the near future, a resolution with clear and immediate requirements requirements that Iraq would voluntarily meet if it chooses to cooperate," he said.
In Washington, the Bush administration seemed willing to consider jettisoning its insistence on language that explicitly calls for war against Iraq and substituting a call for serious "consequences."
"I've always said that the wording about consequences was what we are working on to find an agreement," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told The Times. "And so that is happening."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the aim was still for "a strong resolution that makes clear there must be consequences."
"Those consequences would come in the form of action if Iraq does not comply," said Mr. Boucher.
The administration yesterday said that while negotiations over details would continue, the United States would not give in on the issue of two resolutions.
"We are pushing for one resolution," Mr. Fleischer said. "Conversations are continuing and they're getting hotter. We'll see if we're able to get an agreement or if it falls apart."
Mr. Negroponte said last night that "the United States believes that the best way to ensure Iraqi compliance is through one resolution that is firm and unambiguous in its message."
The United States objects to the two-resolution proposal because it would require two votes and offer more opportunities for delays.
In a sign of the quickening tempo of the closed-door talks, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell spoke by phone with both French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Wednesday and yesterday, and with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Wednesday.
Mr. Powell also met yesterday with chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, a conversation Washington requested two days ago, according to U.N. sources.
U.N. delegations of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council have also been meeting in New York on a regular basis.
Mr. Ivanov told reporters in Moscow that the British and Americans have prepared a new draft resolution that "will take into account the Russian viewpoint."
"The Russian side is waiting for this draft in order to familiarize itself with it," he added, saying he expected the new text by the weekend.
Moscow has shared French concerns against the U.S. insistence on a single resolution authorizing force should Iraq fail to meet U.N. disarmament demands.
The Bush administration refused to comment on Mr. Ivanov's remarks, but a senior State Department official, speaking on background, said the U.N. powers are "talking on the basis of the [single] U.S. draft."
"They always have been; they still are," the official said.
The U.S. demand for an explicit threat of force against Baghdad was denounced at the United Nations yesterday, with speech after speech from Third World ambassadors calling Iraq's decision last month to allow U.N. inspectors to return an important first step that should be cultivated.
"Every possible effort should be made to avert war," Bangladeshi U.N. Ambassador Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told the council yesterday.
Even Kuwait, which was invaded by Saddam Hussein's forces in 1990 and was liberated by U.S. troops, failed to endorse basic American demands.
"Any use of force must be a last resort and within the United Nations framework and only after all other available means have been exhausted," Kuwaiti Ambassador Mohammad Abulhasan said at yesterday's Security Council meeting.
Betsy Pisik contributed to this report.


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