- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 26 (UPI) — The 10 elected U.N. Security Council members, including six non-committed nations, Wednesday listened to yet another British-U.S. pitch for their joint Iraq draft resolution, apparently without yielding positions.

One diplomatic source, who did not want to be identified, said he felt no change among any of the E-10 positions following the nearly two-hour discussion. Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan were not committed but Islamabad was likely to abstain.

Bulgaria was firmly aligned with the British-Spanish-U.S. draft while Syria was believed favoring the countering France-Germany-Russia "Memorandum," described in diplomatic language as a "non-paper," or not a formal proposal, more like suggestions for consideration.

The meeting was held near the U.N. Headquarters complex, at Spain's Mission to the United Nations. Tuesday a similar session was held by the Franco-German-Russia side for the E-10 at Chile's mission to the United Nations a city block further away.

Nine yes votes and no vetoes from the permanent five, veto-wielding members of Britain, China, France Russia and the United States were required for passage. No date has been set for a vote.

Thursday all 15-members of the council were expected to discuss the proposals behind closed doors for the first time since having received instructions from their capitals.

One of the first emerging from the latest talks, was an apologetic Ambassador of Germany, Gunter Pleuger, this month's president of the council.

He told reporters waiting outside in subfreezing weather, "I think I have to disappoint you because these were confidential consultations, And I will keep them confidential. I am sorry."

Asked if the arguments were persuasive, he replied, "All arguments were very persuasive."

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, as the others, refused to characterize the meeting.

However, London's envoy said he liked the idea of being able "to really talk these things through informally, without commitment, without being reported as your government's position, to see whether there's a way forward that everybody could subscribe to. That was the point of the meeting. I thought it was in a very good spirit and that is what the non-permanent members wanted. They did the same with the other members for the P-5 yesterday."

He denied there was an attempt to sway votes, saying, "We were trying to explain some of the statements made on each side and what lay behind them. People wanted to know what things meant. You read for instance my discussion, my presentation paper on Monday. They picked out some things from that and wanted to know what lay behind it. It was to understand each other's oppositions. It was not a campaign voting exercise."

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador, agreed with Greenstock that it was a chance to "explain the rationale behind the resolution in greater detail and address whatever questions the other members may have in respect to our proposal."

He too described the session as just one in a "process of dialogue at many, many different levels, between permanent representatives here and between ministers of the respective Security Council members and even heads of government."

Washington's envoy called it "an interactive process," adding, "I am sure that you are going to continue to see quite a bit of diplomatic activity over the next few days."

Still, he was positive.

"I think we have a solid case," Negroponte said. "I think we have a convincing position that the government of Iraq is not in compliance obligations under (the Security Council Resolution) 1441 and it's time for the council and the international community to face up to that fact squarely and that's what this draft resolution is all about."

He later told United Press International Washington's views on both the Franco-German-Russian proposal and a Canadian "non-paper" quietly circulated Tuesday.

Ottawa's proposal suggested a series of "benchmarks" beginning with the report of chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, due Saturday but, UPI learned, dispatched Wednesday night to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and readied for the U.N. printers.

There would be time frames of seven and 14 days following Blix's tentative March 7 oral report to the council. The last one would be a "final report" on the progress of inspections begun Nov. 27.

Negroponte told UPI, "We think they are a form of rewriting 1441 by setting benchmarks that are sort of a subset of what is being asked for by 1441," which set no dates.

He said, "(Resolution) 1441 demands the complete, immediate and unconditional disarmament of Iraq and our view is both the Canadian and Franco-German proposals basically are calling for an extension of the process of inspections when we think it is amply clear after 100 days — 107 days I think somebody said today to be exact — that it's absolutely clear that the Iraqi government does not intend to comply with its disarmament obligations.

"So what we think is that if we enter further procedural approaches of this kind the government of Iraq is simply going to try and use this to try to buy more time for their dilatory tactics," he said. "So, that's our basic concern. We don't think anything is gained by putting off a decision by the council to conclude that Iraq has exhibited no intention of complying with its disarmament obligations."

To that end, Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, was asked in a U.N. corridor earlier Wednesday if Iraq was showing signs it was willingly disarming.

"I do not think I can say there is evidence of a fundamental decision, but there is some evidence of some increased activity," he replied, adding there was neither full cooperation nor indication of a breakthrough in the inspection process by Baghdad.

His written report Saturday is expected to echo that.

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