- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 10 (UPI) — The Security Council is to begin an open, formal debate Tuesday on the Britain-Spain-U.S. draft resolution carrying a March 17 deadline on Iraq, with all U.N. members eligible to speak.

The request came from the Non-Aligned Movement, a U.N. official said Monday.

Britain and the United States said no vote was expected before Wednesday when the debate was expected to conclude. Word came as the council went into closed-door consultations on the Congo and, eventually, Iraq.

In The Hague, Netherlands, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his strongest statement on the Iraq crisis yet, reacted to Washington's threats to lead a "coalition of the willing" in attacking Iraq if it failed to get council approval, saying, "If the United States and others were to go outside the council and take military action it would not be in conformity with the (U.N.) Charter."

During the Security Council meeting, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix answered queries from council members on his report last week, which both British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to during their presentations, on "clusters" of remaining questions for Iraq to answer.

Blix also said there were questions over "the legality" of automatically piloted or unmanned aircraft, referred to as drones that have been learned of. He said of one, "They should have declared it." There were also questions of whether the craft could carry chemical or biological weapons.

He stressed to reporters, referring to the "clusters" report, "Nowhere in this document is it asserted that Iraq had, … Iraq has, weapons of mass destruction."

He also appeared to be directing attention to Britain and the United States of their intelligence assessments.

"The intelligence agents say that, and some governments are convinced, they may have the sources that really convince them that the evidence is there," of weapons of mass destruction, he told reporters. "We are not criticizing them. In fact I am not trying to put any conflict with intelligence agencies. We have great respect for what they do. We think they are necessary. We take our hats off for the efforts they make. Some of them are operating, risking their own lives. However, it is a different matter when it comes to results."

Blix told the council members he expected to have his program of work of the key remaining inspection tasks for the council at the end of the month, earlier than expected.

Ambassador Sergei Lavrov of Russia said Blix told them "before next weekend" of March 22-23.

"I think it's highly unlikely that we will have a vote on the resolution tomorrow (Tuesday)," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, going into the session, adding he intended to suggest to the other delegates "that we be prepared to vote on the resolution sometime later this week but not tomorrow."

When British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock emerged from the session he was asked when would the vote be, to which he replied: "Not tomorrow."

Council diplomats later said he did not foresee a vote before Thursday. They also said London sounded willing to let the deadline slip a little but wouldn't say how much.

Negroponte did not speak with reporters after the session, but there were also indications, diplomats said, of a possible willingness to let the deadline slide a few days.

It was also pointed out that the closer the vote gets to the already-proposed March 17, the less likely there would be for a chance of approval of a draft that already is in a serious uphill battle.

Britain, Spain and the United States, supported by Bulgaria, Friday tabled the draft resolution. China, France, Germany and Russia opposed it, with Paris and Moscow threatening to veto the measure. Syria also is against it.

The six undecided nations — Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan — were being actively courted by both sides and held a meeting of their own Monday afternoon, according to diplomats, to try and reach consensus.

Asked about reports of reaching agreement to seek a month delay in the deadline, ambassadors acknowledged they had heard such an amount, but quickly added they had also heard other dates, indicating no agreement on how long to seek to set the deadline back.

Annan's earlier legality statement was made, in an added emphasis, at The Hague, where sit the World Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, being inaugurated Tuesday.

"The members of the Security Council now face a great choice," Annan told reporters in prepared remarks. "If they fail to agree on a common position, and action is taken without the authority of the Security Council, the legitimacy and support for any such action will be seriously impaired.

"If, on the other hand, they can come together, even at this late hour, to address this threat in a united manner and ensure compliance with their previous resolutions, then the council's authority will be enhanced, and the world will be a safer place."

Later, when asked by a reporter, "You said that an attack on Iraq without a second council resolution would not be legitimate. Would you consider it as a breach of the U.N. Charter?"

Annan replied: "I think that under today's world order, the charter is very clear on circumstances under which force can be used. I think the discussion going on in the council is to ensure that the Security Council, which is master of its own deliberations, is able to pronounce itself on what happens.

"If the United States and others were to go outside the council and take military action it would not be in conformity with the charter."

At U.N. headquarters in New York the chief U.N. spokesman, Fred Eckhard, refused to elaborate on Annan's statement.

"I don't think I need to do exegesis on this simple declarative sentence. It's meaning is very clear," Eckhard told reporters.

Asked if Annan had a duty to defend the charter, Eckhard replied, "He has the duty to defend it and in order to defend it he's got to interpret it. He's got a legal adviser should he run into any difficulties. He also takes his orders from the member states (of the United Nations) through the General Assembly and the Security Council so if they want to help him interpret the charter they may do so. But again, he's made a very clear statement."

At that briefing, a reporter asked for Eckhard to explain the context in which Annan couched his remarks.

"The context is evolving in each day that goes by," said the spokesman. "The tensions rise and he felt that on this particular day he wanted to issue this statement, reiterate what he said before, perhaps more forcefully, to throw down some markers as governments prepare to make very important decisions."

This was a direct reference to the 15 members of the council.

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