- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 7 (UPI) — The U.N. Security Council Tuesday considered a Non-Aligned Movement request to hold in public a scheduled Jan. 27 briefing by weapons inspectors on Iraq, but it faces opposition from the United States.

Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the NAM, on Jan. 2 wrote the president of the council for January, Ambassador Jean-Marc De La Sabliere of France, with the request. A copy of it was obtained by United Press International Tuesday.

"By allowing (the top weapons inspectors) to present their views in an open meeting, the Security Council will afford the rest of the United Nations membership the benefit of receiving a first-hand account of this important report," Kumalo said.

"The international community accords critical importance to the Security Council's deliberations on the ongoing work of the weapons inspectors in Iraq as it has great significance on the maintenance of international peace and security," Kumalo said.

De La Sabliere said Tuesday the letter was circulated during council consultations Monday and that he would in turn consult with each of the other 14 members before announcing a decision.

That was not expected before Thursday when chief weapons inspector Hans Blix was to deliver a preliminary assessment of Iraq's declaration on its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission on Iraq, and Mohammed ElBaradei, executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, were mandated to deliver to the council by Jan. 27 a report on Iraq, following 60 days of inspections.

The mandate comes from the Nov. 8 resolution authorizing the return of inspectors for the first time in four years.

While three of the other four permanent, veto-bearing, members of the council, Britain, China, and Russia do not oppose such an open council meeting, Washington does.

"It's highly unusual to have a briefing like this in public and we don't want to stray from the course," said Rick Grenell, a U.S. spokesman.

France, as president of the council, declined to give its position.

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