- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

NEW YORK France and Russia challenged a U.S. demand for implied authority to attack Iraq if it fails to comply with international weapons inspections by circulating their own versions of a resolution to a divided U.N. Security Council.
The Russian and French proposals call on Iraq to cooperate fully with international weapons inspectors, but provide a legal basis for military action should Iraq continue to defy the United Nations.
U.S. diplomats responded by setting a deadline "through the end of next week" several council envoys quoted Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham as saying in closed-door meetings.
"We're not counting votes," Mr. Cunningham told reporters later. "We are looking for the broadest agreement that we can find in the council. You never know how people are going to vote until voting time comes."
The suggestion of alternative texts which, unlike the U.S. draft, have not been formally introduced gives council members a choice in deciding whether to threaten Iraq with force as it returns the U.N. weapons inspectors to work.
Iraq expelled inspectors in 1998, as the United States and Britain were preparing air strikes to punish the nation for blocking access to key weapons sites.
Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Gennady Gatilov, dismissed the U.S. resolution as "anti-Iraqi" and too prone to bring war.
"We did this just to illustrate that there are some other ideas about how we can deal with the Iraqi situation, and what we can do in order to send the inspectors back on the ground as soon as possible," Mr. Gatilov said.
The Russian and French drafts contain no mention of Iraq being in "material breach" of previous council resolutions, which could provide the legal basis for the use of force. Nor do they authorize the use of force if Iraq fails to give inspectors immediate, unfettered access to all sites, individuals and documents.
Instead, they call for the council to consider its options if U.N. weapons inspectors report obstructions.
U.S. officials have said they will proceed with plans to target Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein for removal, with or without U.N. approval, unless Iraq gives up all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Chinese Ambassador Wang Yiingfan told reporters yesterday that Beijing also had problems with the "material breach" language.
"I do not like the words because it could have different interpretations," Mr. Wang told reporters.
China is less outspoken than either Russia or France on the Iraq issue, although all three veto-holding members of the council are opposed to the U.S. draft resolution. Britain and the United States also have veto powers on the 15-member council.
Council members indicated yesterday that none of the five has threatened to veto the U.S. resolution if it is brought to a vote.
Russia, China and France are more likely to abstain, they said, while Syria the sole Arab nation on the council said it will vote against it.
The Bush administration is attempting to round up nine council votes needed to pass its resolution.


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