- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

U.S. officials Wednesday shrugged off a threat from Russia, France and Germany to block any U.N. resolution authorizing force against Iraq, as Muslim leaders met in Qatar amid angry divisions on how to respond to the threat of war.

The foreign ministers of Russia, France and Germany announced in Paris a united front against any move to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the use of force to disarm Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction — raising the specter of a veto just two days before a key U.N. meeting in New York.

"We will not allow to pass … a resolution that would authorize the recourse to force," a joint statement from the three said.

"Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will take all our responsibilities on this point," the statement added, an effective veto threat from both countries.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov added that China shared the position of France, Germany and Russia — although he did not say whether Beijing endorsed the communiqu.

As permanent Security Council members, China, Russia and France can veto any resolution. Germany, holding one of the rotating Security Council seats, has no such authority.

In Washington, U.S. officials shrugged off the announcement, maintaining that they would get the votes they needed — nine yes votes with no vetoes from the five permanent members — to get a resolution through the Security Council.

"It's not accurate to leap to any conclusions about how these nations will actually vote when it comes down to it and when the members of the Security Council have to raise their hands and be counted," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Meanwhile, diplomatic finesse went out the window at the summit of Muslim nations in Doha, Qatar, when a top Iraqi official told the Kuwaiti foreign minister to shut up and called him a dog and a monkey.

Izzat Ibrahim Douri, vice-president of Iraq's governing Revolutionary Command Council, also denounced Kuwait's rulers — the Sabah family to which Foreign Minister Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah belongs — as traitors for joining an appeal to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to step down to save his country from war.

At the one-day meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference — called to discuss the looming threat of a U.S.-led war on Iraq — Kuwait became the latest Arab country to join the appeal launched by the United Arab Emirates. The proposal calls for the Iraqi leadership to resign and leave the country in exchange for immunity.

It was presented and officially ignored Saturday at a summit of the Arab League but gave the first public voice to rumors in the region that Arab leaders have tried to convince Saddam to go.

Douri accused the Kuwaitis of conspiring with the United States and Israel against Baghdad.

When a Kuwaiti delegate interrupted the harangue, calling the Iraqi's comments lies and blasphemy, Douri shouted at him: "Shut up, you petty agent. Shut up, you dog. Shut up, you monkey" and poured out more insults.

Douri's outburst ended an Iraqi trend to soften its tone when referring to Kuwait, which began at an Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002.

The United States says Saddam possesses proscribed weapons of mass destruction and is deceiving the international community. It says the United Nations must disarm Iraq or it will do so alone with a "coalition of the willing."

Inspectors are at present in Iraq in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 that mandates their return. The resolution warns of Baghdad of "serious consequence" if it does not comply.

Pressure is mounting on the six undecided elected members of the council — Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan — to support a new Britain-Spain-U.S.-sponsored resolution seen by some as a go-ahead for war against Iraq.

The crucial vote could come as early as next week.

Also Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged the United Nations was doing "preliminary thinking" about managing or administering Iraq after a possible U.S. invasion topples Saddam.

"We have been doing lots of good work and contingency planning for the humanitarian aspects and obviously some preliminary thinking on what would happen if there were to be war and the other aspects of post-conflict Iraq," he told reporters.

Reacting to a report in The Times of London that it had a 60-page document describing U.N. plans, Annan added, "There is some preliminary thinking but there is no plan and no document."

However, a spokesman for the secretary-general, Fred Eckhard, said there was a lengthy report to Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette from Rafeeudin Ahmed, a former U.N. Development Program official, who was tasked to look at what the world organization could do in post-conflict Iraq if asked by the Security Council.

Eckhard suggested that was the document the newspaper cited.

"The Security Council has not given us any mandate to carry out any activity in Iraq, apart from what you are already well aware of," Eckhard said, referring to the oil for food program, the border monitoring of the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission, the inspection process by the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and the compensation commission activity in Geneva, "all Security Council mandated activities."

"Should there be a war and we still hope that the Security Council can avert war, should there be a war we have to ask ourselves what happens to these activities and we've looked at it in two steps," he said, adding, the first immediate concern was internal coordination of the humanitarian program.

Since last December, Eckhard said, he has been chairing an internal task force to do contingency planning. The panel, composed of a number of key U.N. agencies that would be involved in humanitarian work, was asked to look at "what might be asked of us … after the immediate humanitarian needs had been dealt with drawing on our experience with past post-conflict situations."

"While we have no mandate from the council, we have a moral obligation to do contingency planning," said Eckhard. "We still hope that there can be a peaceful solution."

Eckhard explained it was the world organization's policy not to "go public" with contingency planning, whether it was humanitarian or political.

The Times cited U.N. sources as saying they expected the plan to be implemented even if Washington attacks Iraq without U.N. backing.

The Times said the confidential plan foresees the United Nations stepping in some three months after the military action has ended. The world body would then build democratic institutions in the Arab nation.

It said the existence of the plan suggests top U.N. officials, who are negotiating with Saddam's government to rid Iraq of proscribed weapons of mass destruction, consider war to be inevitable.

"The U.N. is breaking a taboo, and arguably breaching its charter, by considering plans for Iraq's future governance while it deals daily with President Saddam Hussein's regime as a legitimate member," The Times said.

The plan calls for the setting up of a U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq that would aid in the establishment of a new government after Saddam is deposed. According to The Times, it says the United Nations should avoid taking direct control of Iraq's oil or in vetting Iraqi officials for links to Saddam or staging elections during a U.S. military occupation.

The developments come as France and Germany announced it would send their foreign ministers to attend the U.N. Security Council briefing later this week by chief Iraq weapons inspector Hans Blix.

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.

The 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.

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