- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

NEW YORK Russia said yesterday it would consider a new resolution governing weapons inspections in Iraq. France also backed changes in the U.N. weapons program, but its proposal did not include tough conditions demanded by the United States.

While both countries appeared open to writing new rules for the inspection regime, Moscow and Paris remained at odds with Washington over the key U.S. demand Security Council authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein even before inspectors set foot in Baghdad.

Under the U.S. proposal, Iraq would have 30 days to provide "an acceptable and currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its program to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles."

The American draft calls for "use of all necessary means" diplomatic terminology for military force if the council finds that Iraq has given "false statements or omissions" or fails "to comply and cooperate fully in accordance with the provisions laid out in this resolution."

In Moscow, which remained opposed to the use of military power to force Iraqi compliance, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters the Kremlin welcomed an agreement reached Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and Iraq on logistics for the return of inspectors after nearly four years.

But, he said, the Kremlin was willing if need be to look at new resolutions on the conduct of inspections.

"If additional decisions are necessary for the efficient work of the inspectors, we, of course, are ready to consider them."

The French remained opposed to the U.S. proposal, and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin wrote in Le Monde: "We do not want to give a blank check to military action."

Paris wants a two-step approach: first, defining the new inspections regime; and second, to be taken only if inspections fail, authorization of force against Saddam.

A French draft proposal would give Iraq a chance to cooperate, but it also warns that "any serious failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations" would lead to an immediate Security Council meeting to "consider any measure to ensure full compliance."

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji expressed support for the two-stage French proposal, which Mr. de Villepin wrote was the only way "to maintain the international community's unity."

The French draft says inspection methods "will be revised" by the Security Council after consultations with Mr. Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. draft would establish "no-fly/no-drive zones, exclusion zones and/or ground and air transit corridors which shall be enforced by U.N. security forces or by members of the council."

It also would give the five permanent Security Council members the right to dispatch representatives with the inspection teams and give them the right to intelligence reports by the inspectors. Iraq, in the past, accused inspectors of spying for the United States.

The permanent five are holding talks on the U.S. draft. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday that reaching agreement will take time, and he believes there is movement. Many council members are open to a new resolution, but diplomats believe that tough negotiations lie ahead.

Mr. Blix will report to the Security Council today, outlining the deal struck Tuesday with Saddam's special adviser, Gen. Amir Al Sadi, who said he expected an advance party of inspectors in Baghdad "in about two weeks." That remains uncertain, however, because the Security Council must act first.

President Bush views the Blix-Iraq agreement "as an Iraqi ploy to string out the world as they build up their arms," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Obviously, the cat-and-mouse games have begun."

Any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China alone can veto any resolution. While positions among the five appear to be inching closer, fundamental compromises still need to be made.

In Vienna, the Iraqis agreed to "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to all sites, Mr. Blix said, including the Ministry of Defense and Republican Guard facilities but Saddam's palaces remain exempt from surprise inspections.

A 1998 agreement between Iraq and the United Nations requires the inspectors to give the Iraqis notice before visiting eight presidential sites, and calls for the presence of an international diplomat during the visits. The United States wants to cancel that agreement.

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