- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

MADRID — A draft U.N. Security Council resolution providing for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq could be circulated as early as next week, diplomats said yesterday.During a visit to Madrid, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell won the support of Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio for Washington’s goal of conducting a “pragmatic” debate in the council that would avoid the bitter fights that preceded the war in Iraq.But even Spain, one of America’s staunchest allies in the Iraq war, stopped short of fully endorsing President Bush’s call for a complete and immediate end to the sanctions.”We are basing ourselves on a principle … to overcome a situation and reach a consensus,” Miss Palacio said at a press conference with Mr. Powell. “The government of Spain shares the principles — and that’s what counts in the end — the principles and the aims of the United States.”Spain, a temporary Security Council member, joined the United States and Britain in sponsoring a prewar resolution that explicitly would have authorized military action in Iraq. The draft never was put to a vote because of France’s threat to veto it under any circumstances.France, which led opposition to the war in the council, has moved closer to the U.S. view on sanctions. But Russia, citing Resolution 687 of 1991, insists that nothing can change until U.N. weapons inspectors go back to Iraq and declare it free of weapons of mass destruction.The United States says the council can change its own rules because the situation on the ground has improved dramatically and Saddam Hussein’s regime, which was the sanctions’ target, is no longer in power.”The whole focus of work in the Security Council now should be directed toward the future and with the Iraqi people, and not to fight out some of the old battles of the past,” Mr. Powell said.”And I’m very pleased that almost — I might say all — of my colleagues in the U.N. now are seeing it in that light, and they are talking about let’s be pragmatic, let’s not be dogmatic or theological about this.”Although the United States and Britain are just beginning to share their ideas on a resolution with other fellow council members, “a draft could be circulated as early as next week,” one U.S. official said. But he acknowledged that Washington and London are “still trying to package all this.”“It will be a difficult negotiation,” he said.In Spain, where 78 percent of the people still think that the war in Iraq was not justified — down from 85 percent before it started — despite the government’s support of the United States, Mr. Powell was greeted with some tough questions.Some of the television crews at his press conference wore white T-shirts printed with the name and face of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso, who was killed by fire from a U.S. tank in Baghdad on April 8, accompanied by the word “murdered.” On the back, the shirts read: “We want answers.”When the secretary was asked about the incident, he said the Americans appeared to have acted in self-defense when they fired on the Palestine hotel, killing Mr. Couso and a Reuters cameraman.”We regret that it happened,” he said. “But we believe truly it was an accident of war.”Mr. Powell stopped in Madrid, where he also met last night with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, on his way to Syria and Lebanon. He plans to return to the Middle East next week to visit Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.He played down his expectations for the Damascus stop, where he will hold talks with President Bashar Assad and other Syrian leaders. Washington has accused Syria, which is on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, of providing refuge for former Iraqi officials and developing chemical weapons.”There will be a candid and straightforward discussion,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, but I’m not looking forward to any particular deliverables.”Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa told reporters in Damascus yesterday that his government wants dialogue, not ultimatums, from Washington.”We believe in dialogue, not presenting demands,” he said.

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