- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 (UPI) — France and Germany said Tuesday their foreign ministers would attend the U.N. Security Council briefing later this week by chief Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix as pressure mounted on the six undecided elected members of the panel to support a Britain-Spain-U.S sponsored resolution seen by some as a go-ahead for war against Iraq.

Announcement that foreign ministers Dominique de Villepin, of France, and Joschka Fischer, of Germany, would attend the Friday open meeting was made following closed-door consultations of the 15-member panel. Other members of the council were asked about their ministers attending but said only they were awaiting word from their capitals.

The undecided were Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan.

The U.S.-backed measure needs nine yes votes with no vetoes from the five permanent members to be approved. Opposing the London-Madrid-Washington-sponsored measure, and supported by Bulgaria, was a "memorandum" sponsored by France, Germany and Russia and supported by China. Syria is a definite "no" vote, Damascus said.

The "P-5," or five permanent Security Council members, are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

The crucial vote could come as early as next week. If Washington doesn't have nine firm votes by then it was expected to withdraw the measure. But if it did, then it would be difficult for one of the P-5 to veto. Conversely, if the measure failed to get the necessary backing the opposing members of the P-5 wouldn't have to threaten a veto.

Members constantly call for consensus and a resolution passed by a sharply divided council, although carrying the weight of international law would not carry the strength of a unanimously passed measure.

The briefing by Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission on Iraq comes just on the heels of his mixed, written report last Friday to the council. He was to be joined by Mohammed ElBaradei, executive chairman of the U.N.'s Vienna-based Atomic Energy Agency.

This Friday's briefing will be a verbal update and was expected to include that Iraq began destroying the al-Samoud 2 missiles it reported in its Dec. 7 declaration to the council but which were only declared illegal last month by experts Blix called in to study specifications of the craft.

Baghdad, which admitted the missiles exceeded the 150 kilometers, or 93 miles, allowed by the council, claimed they would not fly that far when mounted with heavy electronic guidance systems and warheads.

"I think Blix has indicated a positive development," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters. "He has indicated there is much more to be done, but this is a positive development."

Annan, who said he expected Blix to report more than that, without elaborating, said it was the council's call.

"The inspectors are to report the facts," he said. "The council will make its own judgment."

Asked if he thought this positive news could head off a U.S.-led military attack on Iraq, Annan replied, "I think the council's decision will be based on the totality of the presentation by the inspectors and the information they have in front of them. Let's not forget that in accordance with Resolution 1441 (unanimously approved Nov. 8) the council has the right to declare further material breach at any time based on the reports of the inspectors and then move on to 'serious consequences,'" the diplomatic code word for a military attack.

"So, let's give the process time," the calm, soft-spoken secretary-general said. "Let the inspectors report on Friday and see where the council goes from there."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte said the United States has "put down what we think to be a very reasonable resolution that concludes that Iraq is not complying with Resolution 1441 and prior disarmament resolutions."

"We think it's time for the council to face that decision, that is to say, to decide that Iraq is not in compliance and has not taken advantage of this final opportunity offered to it" to disarm.

"We think it's simple, it's straightforward and we are continuing, together with the other cosponsors of the resolution, to make our case," he told reporters outside the council chambers.

Asked if Washington would withdraw the measure failing to get the necessary votes, Negroponte said, "We're not facing that kind of situation and I think we'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it, but we don't think we should have to come to that point."

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