- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

In what many see as a last ditch attempt to find a U.N.-backed solution to the Iraq crisis, Britain Wednesday proposed six conditions that Iraq must fulfill to avoid war, asking for them to be attached to a new Security Council draft resolution.

The British initiative includes a move to extend the prevailing March 17 deadline for Hussein to disarm or face military action.

The text circulated at the United Nations in New York Wednesday leaves a blank space where the number of days would be, but foreign diplomatic sources in Washington said 10 days had emerged as a consensus figure.

The diplomats said that, while the draft resolution was debated, but not voted on, Friday it had been presented to the council jointly by the United States, Britain and Spain, the new proposals have yet to be publicly backed by either the Bush administration or by Madrid.

Analysts said this reflected growing differences between Washington and Britain, its staunchest ally, over what constituted a satisfactory end game to the Iraq crisis.

According to British commentators, Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces intense domestic opposition to any war against Iraq, including within his own Labor Party, has been hoping that a second resolution supporting the use of war if necessary will convince the British public of his case.

The Bush administration has shown signs of increasing impatience and frustration at the pace of the diplomatic process.

With 250,000 U.S. troops massed in the Persian Gulf, the thinking in Washington is that the United States has given the world body enough time to persuade Saddam Hussein to destroy his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the time has come for military action.

Senior Bush administration officials no longer hide the fact that Washington's real objective is Saddam's removal.

On the other side of the diplomatic fence, France and Russia are opposed to war at this stage and want to strengthen and extend the U.N.'s weapons inspections in Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac has implied that he is prepared to use the French veto in the Security Council to block any resolution that would impose a deadline on the weapons inspections. France is one of five permanent members of the 15-member council with the power of veto, along with the United States, Britain, China, and Russia.

At a council session Wednesday the British representative to the U.N., Jeremy Greenstock, submitted what he called "new ideas."

The six conditions call on Hussein to: (1) Make a public statement on television admitting that he has hidden weapons of mass destruction and will destroy them; (2) Allow 30 scientists named by the U.N. weapons inspectors to travel abroad with their families to be interviewed; (3) Produce or account for 10,000 liters of missing anthrax;(4) destroy all banned missiles and rocket engines; (5) Explain and hand over the drone reconnaissance plane found by the U.N.; (6) Destroy the mobile biological warfare laboratories he is suspected of having.

Analysts see the statement as the most difficult of the demands. The idea of Saddam Hussein going public with an admission that he has been lying is difficult to imagine.

The Iraqis have insisted that they do not have weapons of mass destruction. Commenting on the six conditions, the Iraqi permanent representative to the U.N. Mohammed Aldouri said, "The impossible is impossible to do."

As diplomats huddle in the corridors of the U.N. building scribbling lists on the backs of envelopes

Meanwhile, U.N. diplomats huddle in the corridors of the U.N. building scribbling lists on the backs of envelopes, trying to determine who will vote "yes" for the British resolution whether it is an amended version of Friday's draft, or a new one.

Nine Security Council votes are needed for a draft resolution to be adopted — although any one of the five permanent members can use their veto to block the resolution. U.S. officials believe they have eight votes, and are confident they can secure the ninth.

In the U.S. tally, the "yes" votes are — The United States, Britain, Spain, Bulgaria, Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, and Pakistan. Considerable pressure was being put on undecided Chile to join the "yes" votes, according to Latin American sources in Washington. Those opposed are France, Russia, China, and Syria.

Diplomats in Washington say Germany may not oppose the resolution, despite Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder strong anti-war position, and the public groundswell of anti-war sentiment. Germany on Wednesday was circulating another draft resolution. Unlike the British proposals it extends the March 17 deadline until June, but otherwise incorporates the British points.

One emerging difference between Washington and London is that the Blair government is uncertain whether the pro-war members should press for a vote at all.

Unlike the Bush administration, British officials are less confident that a resolution would pass, and a "no" vote is worse for Blair than no vote at all. Several U.S. officials from President Bush down the line have said the United States is prepared to attack Saddam Hussein without the backing of a U.N. vote.

But a negative vote will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the British government to follow suit.

(UPI International Editor Roland Flamini in Washington contributed to this report.)

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