- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Diplomats Thursday emerged from the first-ever debate on the latest draft resolutions and counter-resolutions on Iraq by all 15 members of a divided U.N. Security Council after an intense three-hour, closed-door session where the majority sought to disarm Iraq peacefully.

Also Thursday, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's science adviser, Amir Al-Saadi, sent a letter to chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix saying Iraq has agreed "in principle" to destroy al-Samoud 2 missiles by week's end, an official for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission said.

The letter, dated Feb. 27 in Baghdad, "accepted the request for the destruction of the missiles and other items," the official said. On Feb. 21 Blix had directed destruction of the missiles and related material by Saturday, March 1. An UNMOVIC official was in Baghdad to coordinate the operation with Iraqi authorities.

Blix earlier in the day submitted to Secretary-General Kofi Annan his mandated quarterly report on progress or lack of progress on the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. The UNMOVIC executive chairman tentatively planned to orally update it next week.

"The process side (of the inspections) is good, where the substance side is not so good, and it clearly reflects both of those things," UNMOVIC spokesman Ewen Buchanan said of the 16-page report, as presented.

After it has been translated into the world organization's six official languages, the report was to be printed and distributed to council members who expected to get their first look at it Friday.

United Press International obtained excerpts late Thursday from a draft of Blix's report, distributed to members of UNMOVIC's College of Commissioners at their U.N. headquarters meeting last week. A U.N. official asked about the document pointed out that it did not take into account recent developments nor did it have the "observations" Blix was expected to conclude his report with.

"Iraq could have made greater efforts to find remaining proscribed items of credible evidence showing the absence of such items," the draft said. "The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far."

The draft wondered why Baghdad didn't take greater advantage of its December declaration, running some 12,000 pages, to report proscribed items or to verify their destruction.

"It is hard to understand why a number of the measures, which are now being taken, could hot have been initiated earlier," the draft said. "If they had been taken earlier, they might have borne fruit by now. It is only the middle of January and thereafter that Iraq has taken a number of steps, which have the potential of resulting either in the presentation for destruction of stocks or items that are proscribed or the presentation of relevant evidence solving long standing unresolved disarmament issues."

"We had a very intense meeting of the Security Council today and as you can see it took many hours," said Ambassador Gunter Pleuger of Germany, this month's Security Council president. "Basically we are all agreed in the council on the full disarmament of Iraq of their weapons of mass destruction. The question is, however, 'Is time really up or do we need more time to reach our common goal, the disarmament by peaceful means, and, should we enhance inspections and give inspections a chance to achieve their goal?'

"We all agree that only military force is resorted to as a last resort," Berlin's envoy added.

France circulated a "memorandum," co-sponsored by Germany and Russia, with Chinese support, to counter the tough U.S.-British-Spanish-backed draft resolution which said Iraq had failed to take the "final opportunity" to disarm as allowed by the Nov. 8 Resolution 1441.

Six of the 15 nations remain basically uncommitted: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan. However, from time to time reports pop up, only to be knocked down, that one or another has decided to side with one or the other factions led by the five permanent members, the veto-wielding P5 members, of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of Britain cited the confidentiality of the council's consultations in declining to characterize or give details of the discussions.

"But, I just want to make one or two points for the United Kingdom view," he said. "I set out in very clear terms a number of facts about what was going on, on the ground in Iraq. I thought it was important that we should bring more detail to the council of why and how Iraq is concealing materials and resisting cooperating with the inspectors.

"It was important to the issue of the debate in the council that that should be very clear — facts about current WMD (weapons of mass destruction) activities in Iraq; facts about the concealment program; facts about deceiving the inspectors," he said. "I hope that was of interest to the council. In other words, we were showing why the claim by Iraq that there is a zero in terms of their WMD holdings is a lie."

Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere of France called the session "a very defining moment for the Security Council."

He said the panel has to answer "very simple and very important" questions.

"From one side, some delegations — the U.K., United States and Spain — who are telling us with a draft resolution that there is no other option than war. This is a resolution about war. This is a resolution, which authorizes — asks the council to authorize the use of force.

"And there is another option," he continued. "The other option is to disarm Iraq through peaceful means. And those who are defending the other option — France, Germany, Russia supported by China, and other members of the council — think that the time has not come to say that there is no other option than war. We do think that there is another option — reinforcing the inspections; giving a very clear mandate on identifying very clearly what are the key remaining disarmament issues; and having a very clear timeline for the inspections is another option."

He said the "very interesting" discussion showed "the majority of the members think that the time has not come to decide to go to war."

La Sabliere said he thought the majority of the delegations "want to see what are the key remaining disarmament issues."

An American diplomat said the panel would discuss at a future date just what to ask Blix and UNMOVIC to present.

Ambassador Gabriel Valdes of Chile told reporters after the meeting that he "made an appeal to the members of the council to approximate positions.

"We believe that the millions of people who have expressed their wish for the council to find a way of peace demands the council, and very specifically the five permanent members, to be able to find a process of disarmament of Iraq that will be respected, that will be effective and will be seen by the world community as a legitimate decision by the Security Council.

"This divided council is in fact throwing the decision on the shoulders of the elected (10) members while the permanent members stick to their positions without making efforts to approximate their views," he said. "We have indicated today that inspections cannot be eternal, that we want the inspectors to give us their plan of work and we would like to set up those demands to Iraq that are crucial for the disarmament process and that would allow us in a short time to see the culmination of the disarmament process.

"Only then could the Security Council really take a decision by substantive majority that would express the legitimate will of the international community," said Valdes, who was later joined in the plea by Mexico.

The council has not yet set a date on the next Iraq debate, although Blix has been "penciled in" to report March 7.

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