- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, March 6 (UPI) — British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday "there is certainly a possibility" of amending the U.N. Security Council Iraq draft resolution, now facing the threat of vetoes from China, France and Russia in a heavily divided council.

During a news conference at U.N. headquarters, Straw was asked about reports amendments were being considered to the tough, terse draft tabled Feb. 24 that carried one meaningful line: "Decides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by resolution 1441 (2002)," referring to the Nov. 8 resolution authorizing resumption of Iraq inspections for weapons of mass destruction.

"When Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the United Nations tabled the second draft resolution … he made clear that while we obviously attached to the principles set out and to the inevitable conclusion that Iraq has missed its final opportunity, of course we were ready to discuss the wording of that second resolution and welcomed to take on board any constructive suggestions as to how the process set out in that draft resolution could be improved," he said.

"That is exactly at what were doing and I am looking forward to further discussions as fellow foreign ministers arrive," for Friday's ministerial-level meeting of the council in which the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, was to deliver an update to his Feb. 28 written report on Iraq inspections.

Eleven foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one deputy foreign ministers were expected.

"Is there a possibility of an amendment?" Straw was asked.

"There is certainly a possibility of an amendment and that's something we are looking at," the foreign secretary replied.

A spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations had no comment on the remark and said only, "We are looking to see what the president (Bush) has to say" in his planned address (at 8 p.m. EST).

The second measure was co-sponsored by Spain and the United States and only one of the elected 10 members of the council, Bulgaria, came out in support of it.

Opposing a second resolution, France, Germany and Russia, supported by China, offered a "Memorandum," rather than a formal resolution, that called for establishing a "program of action" for inspectors setting out remaining tasks; reinforcing inspections; asking for timelines for inspections and an assessment, in effect giving Baghdad at least four more months to comply.

Straw began his session with reporters after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a foreign minister he did not identify, and read a statement recalling the last resolution called for the "full, active and immediate compliance," with previous disarmament resolutions.

"The one and only certain thing we know is that Iraq has not complied, fully actively and immediately on substance and there is overwhelming evidence it made no serious attempt to do so."

Straw said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was using his familiar pattern of concealment, denial, delay, minimal concessions, and "then conclude you have succeeded once again with keeping your weapons of mass destruction."

The Whitehall minister said the process was at stage four where Saddam was destroying "some missiles reluctantly and at the last moment."

Straw said "Saddam must be close to concluding that he is reaching stage five, that the international community is going to let him succeed."

He said the United Nations would be back where it was at the end of 1998 when "the inspectors were frozen out." They left Baghdad on the eve of an allied bombing campaign called in retaliation for non-compliance with inspectors.

Outlining what he saw as the objective of the British-Spanish-U.S. alliance in the coming days, Straw said, "We need to be clear that if we take the pressure off, Saddam Hussein will never disarm and other dictators with similar ambitions will get the message that they can get away with defying the Security Council if they are prepared to prevaricate and procrastinate endlessly."

On another front, actually what could soon become a war front, the border between Kuwait and Iraq apparently already has been compromised.

Chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters there have been "numerous violations of the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait since March 4 by personnel in civilian clothes, in four-by-four vehicles, at least some of who were armed and identified themselves as U.S. Marines"

He said the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission reported "three breaches cut in the electric fence that had been erected by the government of Kuwait along the border of Iraq in Sector North of the DMZ.

"UNIKOM has raised this matter with the government of Kuwait" and asked for advance information of any similar future movements in the DMZ.

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