- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

NEW YORK The prospects for a U.N. resolution authorizing a strike on Iraq are complicated by the arrival this month of five new members on the U.N. Security Council, part of an annual rotation in which one-third of the council turns over every year.

"Anyone expecting another 15-0 vote on Iraq isn't paying attention," said Nancy Soderberg, who served in the U.S. Mission here under the Clinton administration. "It's not going to be like Colombia rolling over and doing what Washington wants."

She said there was little hope that the Americans will get a swift and unanimous response when, or if, they seek a U.N. resolution to authorize a war.

Germany, Spain, Chile, Angola and Pakistan began two-year terms on the council Jan. 1, replacing Ireland, Norway, Colombia, Mauritius and Singapore. Five other elected members, including Syria, remain for a second year.

Although none of the 10 elected members can veto a council decision, the full agreement of the council lends gravity to any resolution.

The five permanent council members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have been deeply divided for years about most aspects of the council's dealings on Iraq, including the enforcement of sanctions, demands for the return of Kuwaiti property and the authorization of force.

The Russians and Chinese have been largely supportive of Baghdad's positions, while the Americans and British have been generally opposed. The French carefully tread a middle ground but have usually ended up siding with the West.

The new council members for the most part are larger and more independent than the nations they are replacing, diplomats and observers said.

Three of the five outgoing nations Singapore, Colombia and Mauritius were closely aligned with U.S. positions, in part because of extremely close military and economic ties.

Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean, owed its council seat to Washington's intervention and adhered closely to its benefactor's positions.

By comparison, the United States has much less influence over the decisions of countries like Germany, Spain and Chile.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder won re-election last year by denouncing the U.S. threat to begin a war with Iraq. The rhetoric produced in that campaign has damaged Berlin's relations with Washington, and officials have been slow to repair the rift.

U.S. officials even tried to block Germany from heading the council's powerful committee overseeing Iraqi sanctions, fearing Berlin would be too permissive with imports. Germany, which oversaw the committee during its last term on the council, will again take its helm, officials said yesterday.

However no one believes that Germany will allow itself to be isolated, or will ally itself with Syria in opposing legitimate action.

Furthermore, observers note, the four Western European nations now on the council might support a war resolution just to avoid seeing the United States act on its own.

"What they really don't want to see in the [European Union] is American unilateralism," said James Chace, a professor of international relations at Bard College.

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