October 18, 2002
France holds the key to resolving a U.N. wrangle on possible war against Iraq, having signaled that it favors a modified U.S. draft resolution removing explicit authorization of force, diplomats said on Friday.
Having previously led opposition to a tougher U.S. draft, Paris has now raised hopes for an end to a month-long deadlock in the U.N. Security Council over how to deal with Baghdad's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the diplomats said.
"So far the U.S. changes are acceptable to France," said one diplomat. But he said negotiations between Paris and Washington were still taking place.
The United States and Britain had been engaged in intense negotiations with France and the other two permanent members with veto power, Russia and China, to win backing for a tough new resolution on Iraq that would automatically trigger an attack if it failed to disarm. But France and Russia resisted.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday that London and Washington reserved the right to act alone against Iraq, with force if necessary, if the United Nations failed to get President Saddam Hussein to disarm.
Straw said Britain and the United States were committed to tackling Iraq and its suspected stock of weapons of mass destruction via the United Nations, but only if it produced results.
He told BBC radio: "We reserve the right to act within international law in respect of the use of force which may or may not be covered by a new resolution. It is entirely appropriate for America, as for us, to reserve their position if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities."
Russia was said to be considering trying to add some proposals of its own at the U.N. debate on Iraq.
"DIPLOMACY NOT EXHAUSTED"
"We think that political and diplomatic measures and methods are far from exhausted," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
"It is only the international inspectors who are capable of providing a clear answer to the question of whether weapons of mass destruction exist in Iraq."
French President Jacques Chirac, who again insisted on Friday that military action should be only a last resort, has still to review the latest U.S. proposal.
"In the modern world, the use of force should only be a last resort. It should only be allowed in the case of legitimate defense or by decision of the competent international authorities," Chirac told a summit of French-speaking nations in Beirut.
President Bush, who says the United States is ready to act alone if the United Nations fails to reach a deal acceptable to Washington, seeks "regime change" in Baghdad and has suggested he could topple Saddam by force if necessary.
The United States had hoped to circulate its new draft resolution, which gives U.N. weapons inspectors a central role, to key members of the 15-nation Security Council on Friday, after which hard bargaining is expected on the details.
But it may delay this until early next week in what a U.S. official called "one last shot" at reaching agreement with France following near-worldwide opposition to the original American proposals.
The new U.S. language also allows for a possible second resolution, as France wants, to authorize force if weapons inspectors report that Iraq has violated U.N. demands.
But the United States has not committed itself to seeking a second resolution, and Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters, after seeing chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix in New York on Thursday, that Washington reserved the right to act as it wished.
"NO NEW AUTHORITY NEEDED"
"The United States does not need any additional authority even now, if we thought it was necessary to take action to defend ourselves," he said.
"We believe one resolution is appropriate. And obviously the council can always go off and have other discussions any time it chooses."
The new U.S. draft, excerpts of which were obtained by Reuters, came after a flurry of discussions, mainly between Powell and his counterparts in France, Russia and China.
The Bush administration also appeared willing to drop its earlier insistence that the five veto-wielding council members be allowed to join inspectors in Iraq.
Washington may also relent on a call for troops to accompany inspectors in the field, although some guards may be available to protect headquarters and regional offices of the arms experts, diplomats said.
The new U.S. proposals direct the inspectors to "report immediately to the council any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament obligations, including its obligations regarding inspections under this resolution."
The council would then meet immediately to "consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all of the relevant Security Council resolutions."
This could mean a second resolution. But if the council does not then authorize force, the United States could decide to strike Iraq anyway.
In its original draft, the United States had a "trigger" for military action, saying that any U.N. member could "use all necessary means" if it decided Iraq committed infractions.
Nation after nation in an open debate on Iraq on Thursday and Friday told council members to avoid a war and give the U.N inspectors a chance to do their work first. The arms experts left Baghdad in December 1998 and Iraq, until the recent threats from the Bush administration, had refused to let them return.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C Â§ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.