- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

NEW YORK U.S. diplomats yesterday distributed a draft Security Council resolution that President Bush indicated would give Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein one last chance to meet the world's demands for his disarmament without facing military attack.
Saying he was ready to try diplomacy "one more time," Mr. Bush told reporters in Washington that he remained committed to regime change in Iraq but believed that could be achieved peacefully.
"The stated policy of our government, the previous administration and this administration, is regime change, because we don't believe he is going to change," Mr. Bush said after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.
"However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nations, the conditions that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed."
The remarks appeared to be an attempt to meet the demands of France and Russia, who are resisting any overt demand for Saddam's ouster before inspectors have had a chance to examine his weapons programs, without giving up a long-standing policy of calling for a change in the Iraqi leadership.
The Associated Press suggested yesterday that Mr. Bush and his top advisers were deliberately sending strategically mixed signals about whether Saddam could remain in power by changing the nature of the regime.
"We've tried diplomacy. We're trying it one more time. I believe the free world, if we make up our mind to, can disarm this man peacefully," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "But if not we have the will and the desire, as do other nations, to disarm Saddam."
The new draft resolution distributed to the four other permanent Security Council members yesterday removes or softens demands that were opposed by France and Russia.
As described by diplomats who have seen it, the draft concentrates in the hands of weapons inspectors the power to determine whether Iraq is cooperating fully with their disarmament efforts. It will be up to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to report obstructions to the council.
The Americans also have fudged an unpopular demand that key council members be allowed to send their observers with inspectors, to report to their governments and the council about compliance.
Instead, it is up to Mr. Blix to determine who goes into the field, though he could take envoys from the five permanent Security Council members.
Washington has backed away in recent days from its initial insistence on a single resolution that demands Iraq's full compliance with the inspectors and explicitly authorizes military force if it does not do so.
Instead, the administration has agreed to more consultations with the council if Iraq does not noncomply. It maintains in its public remarks that the congressional resolution of last week is all the authorization it needs to use force.
"We will have zero tolerance for any violations of U.N. resolution," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday.
The administration's policy has evolved rapidly in the five weeks since Mr. Bush challenged the United Nations to "serve the purposes of its founding, or be irrelevant."
"If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively, to hold Iraq to account. The purposes of the United States should not be doubted," he said from the General Assembly podium on Sept. 12.
But on Oct. 14, Mr. Bush said he would rather not have to use force in dealing with Baghdad.
"I am very firm in my desire to make sure that Saddam is disarmed," he said during a press encounter in Washington. "Hopefully, we can do this peacefully. The use of the military is my last choice, is my last desire."
Mr. Bush also has promised "to put together a vast coalition of countries who understand the threat of Saddam Hussein. Many, many countries share our determination to confront this threat. We're not alone," he said on Oct. 7.
But the coalition of nations willing to assist the United States or at least get out of the way has not coalesced, nor can it without a strong Security Council resolution. The need for legally binding council cover is especially strong among Arab and Persian Gulf nations, whose people are deeply opposed to a U.S.-led war against Iraq.
The five veto-wielders in the council will meet again this morning, and diplomats said that if that goes well a revised draft should be presented to the remaining 10 members of the council this afternoon.
The French and Russians have in recent weeks said they would consider the use of force if Iraq obstructs inspections but refused to offer Washington a green light to make its own evaluation on sending in the military.
Russia yesterday said it would oppose any new resolution that calls for the "automatic use of force" or makes "unfeasible" demands.
Meanwhile, Mr. Blix left for Moscow last night for two days of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and others. The two are to attend a conference on nuclear disarmament.

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