US Seeks 9 Votes From UN Council to Confront Iraq


By Steven R. Weisman and Felicity Barringer

New York Times
February 21, 2003

The United States and Britain have decided that their strategy in the United Nations will be to try to persuade 9 of the 15 members of the Security Council to back a new resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, and then to challenge France, Russia or China to veto the will of the Council's majority, administration officials said today.

American and British officials worked today to settle their differences over the resolution's language while refining it to attract the support of other Council members. Administration officials said the talks meant the resolution would not be introduced until next week, possibly on Monday.

One point of disagreement was a desire by British diplomats to include in the resolution an explicit deadline for Iraq to disclose its weapons and start disarming, administration officials said. The strategy reflects an evolution in the two countries' thinking. A month or so ago, they were still hoping for unanimous Council approval.

Some officials involved in the discussions argued that a resolution approved by a divided Council — with those nations holding veto power abstaining — would be viewed by the world as so weak that it might be preferable to go to war without any resolution at all.

In the last few weeks, however, administration officials have concluded that a resolution with a weak majority would still have authority. The United States has often been on the other side of an uneven vote, and has exercised its veto. One notable case was in 1996 when the United States stood alone, 14-1, against another term for Boutros Boutros-Ghali as secretary general.

The Security Council today put off until March 7 the next report by Hans Blix, the chief United Nations inspector for chemical and biological weapons. An administration official said the British wanted the resolution to make refer to the presentation as the last chance for Iraq to avoid war.

Part of the discussion this week, diplomats said, concerned how to win over six wavering Council members, known informally as "the middle six" — Angola, Guinea, Cameroon, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan — countries that do not command a great deal of diplomatic attention, as a rule. They are nonpermanent members, along with Bulgaria, Germany, Spain and Syria.

The six countries "are really feeling the heat, and they're going to be feeling even more heat in coming days," said an administration official. "On the other side, the French and Germans are turning up the pressure, too."

It takes nine votes to pass a resolution, and the United States and Britain have only Bulgaria and Spain on their side. The permanent members, with veto power, are the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China. If any of them vote no, the resolution is killed.

The strategy is to try to get Russia, France and China to acquiesce by abstaining, perhaps under pressure, if there is a base of 9 or 10 votes in favor. But many in the administration concede that this would be extremely difficult.

Meanwhile, the administration remained unable to close a deal with Turkey on approval for American troops to open a northern front against Iraq from its territory in the event of a war. Some in the administration said they were pessimistic that an accord could be reached, whereas others expressed incredulity that Turkey would turn down an American offer of $26 billion in aid.

There was some confusion even about the nature of the disagreement. At the State Department, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said he expected to hear from Turkey tonight on whether it would go along with the deal. In Ankara, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said Turkey would make its position known on Friday.

Another point of disagreement was over the terms demanded by Turkey. American officials said Turkey wanted more money than the $6 billion in grants and $20 billion in loan guarantees it has been offered. But there were also signs that Turkey wants oil concessions in Iraq and more of a role for its troops in the northern region of the country.

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