- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 24 (UPI) — A U.N. draft resolution from the United States and its allies repeating an earlier warning to Iraq to disarm or face "serious consequences," and an almost simultaneous recommendation from France and Russia to continue the weapons inspections have set the scene for what is likely to be the final U.N. battle over how to deal with Saddam Hussein.

The new resolution submitted to the Security Council Monday and sponsored jointly by the United States, Britain and Spain said Baghdad "has failed to take the final opportunity" to disarm as called for in the Nov. 7 Resolution 1441 that returned the weapons inspectors to Iraq for the first time since 1998.

Somewhat contrary to earlier predictions, the new resolution contains no specific deadline for compliance, nor does it mention the use of force. However, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he expected the Security Council to have about two weeks to discuss the resolution before the vote.

The reference to serious consequences in Resolution 1441 is generally taken to mean the use of force.

Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac said a second resolution is not justified, and it was up to the weapons inspectors to set a deadline.

France, Russia and Germany submitted a memorandum proposing ways of tightening up the inspections and make them more effective. First introduced by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, the proposals included tripling the number of inspectors, adding more offices in Iraq, and using aircraft for aerial surveillance.

U.N. sources said the new resolution was being "informally circulated" before being debated along with the memorandum from France, Germany and Russia. The memorandum says the inspections should continue for about four months.

Washington's latest draft first recalled that a 1991 resolution "declared that a (Gulf War) cease-fire would be based on acceptance by Iraq" of that measure and its disarmament requirements.

It noted that Resolution 1441 said, "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations, afforded Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions" and was warned of "serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations."

However, after 11 preambular paragraphs it said that the council, "Decides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441 (2002)," adding only that the 15-member council would continue to closely watch the situation, or in obligatory U.N. language, "remain seized of the matter."

The Paris, Berlin, Moscow-sponsored "Memorandum," nearly simultaneously circulated, began by stating, "Full and effective disarmament … remains the imperative objective of the international community. Our priority should be to achieve this peacefully through the inspection regime. The military option should only be a last resort."

But, it said, "the conditions for using force against Iraq are not fulfilled: While suspicions remain, no evidence has been given that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities in this field; Inspections have just reached their full pace; they are functioning without hindrance; they have already produced results; While not yet fully satisfactory, Iraqi cooperation is improving, as mentioned by the chief inspectors in their last report."

The two-page memo, called a "non-paper" that contains elements for possible consideration in a new resolution, said the council "must step up its efforts to give a real chance to the peaceful settlement of the crisis," saying the unity of the panel should maintained, while increased pressure was put on Iraq.

It said "the verifiable disarmament of Iraq" could be achieved by U.N. inspectors speeding up presentation of their programs of work "in particular the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq" pursuant to its obligations to comply with successive resolutions.

The inspectors referred to are from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, chaired by Hans Blix, and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Mohammed ElBaradei.

"The key remaining tasks shall be defined according to their degree of priority," the memo said. "What is required of Iraq for implementation of each task shall be clearly defined and precise. Such a clear identification of tasks to be completed will oblige Iraq to cooperate more actively. It will also provide a clear means for the council to assess the cooperation of Iraq."

It also called for "reinforced inspections" and proposed Blix and ElBaradei report to the council on implementation of the program of work every three weeks.

However, as in the enabling U.N. Resolution 1441, it also said Blix or ElBaradei "shall report immediately to the council any interference by Iraq with inspections activities as well as failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations."

Inspections "cannot continue indefinitely. Iraq must disarm. Its full and active cooperation is necessary."

It also called for "compliance" with the requests of inspectors, "as expressed in particular" in Blix's Friday letter directing the destruction of al-Samoud 2 missiles and related material.

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