US Wants UN Vote on Iraq Next Week; Others Not Sure
By Evelyn Leopold
Monday 3 March 2003
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday it wanted a vote next week on its U.N. resolution authorizing war against Iraq but some undecided nations still hope for a compromise that would delay military action.
"Our view is that we don't need to debate this very simple and straightforward resolution," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said after discussing possible dates with Guinea's U.N. ambassador, Mamady Traore, who holds the council's rotating presidency for March.
Chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix is expected to give an oral presentation to the 15-member U.N. Security Council on Friday. "We would expect a vote quite soon thereafter," Negroponte told reporters.
U.S. and British officials said the push for the vote would come the week of March 10, the weekend after Blix speaks. Most U.N. Security Council members say Washington does not yet have the minimum nine votes needed to adopt the resolution.
Some undecided members, such as Chile, Pakistan and Mexico, are still hoping for a variation on a compromise proposal Canada has suggested. Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker addressed the 10 rotating council members, elected for two-year terms, at a private meeting on Monday.
Canada has suggested a series of tests for Iraq of "unresolved issues" Blix has already drawn up. Heinbecker proposed deadlines or "benchmarks" that would take until March 28 or mid-April after which the council could decide on military action if Iraq failed to disarm.
Many diplomats believe the Canadian proposals, dismissed by Washington, could provide political cover to nations whose public opinion is overwhelming against a war by having Blix set precise tests for Iraqi disarmament.
Chile, Mexico, Pakistan as well as Angola, Cameroon and Guinea are anxious that the five permanent council members with veto rights -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- find a compromise in their polarized positions.
France, Russia and China as well as Germany, want U.N. inspections to continue for at least four more months.
The U.S.-backed resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain, declares that Iraq has missed "the final opportunity"' to disarm peacefully, laying the legal groundwork for war.
Chile's deputy ambassador, Christian Maquieira, said Monday's meeting with Canada was exploratory to see whether a variation on Ottawa's proposal can "become operational."
In Santiago, President Ricardo Lagos said, "Chile doesn't want war. What we do want is for Iraq to destroy its weapons of mass destruction by deadlines that are brief and well-established."
And Chile's U.N. ambassador, Gabriel Valdes, currently consulting with his government, told reporters, "Those who think Chile has no opinion in this conflict are very mistaken, because Chile has asked the U.N. for new solutions to the problem because it is not satisfied with the proposals that have been presented until now."
Washington's strategy is to get the minimum nine votes needed to adopt the resolution and then dare France, Russia, or China to veto the measure.
France has the reverse strategy: if the United States does not get the nine votes, it would be spared making a decision about whether or not to veto the measure.
France and Russia have not ruled out using their vetoes while diplomats speculate China would abstain. If there is a veto, the Bush administration would say it has tried and that France or Russia blocked the military solution to disarm Iraq.
Also supporting the U.S.-British-Spanish draft resolution is Bulgaria. Angola and Pakistan are said to be leaning toward the U.S. position but say they are still undecided.
So far, however, there is no sign that the United States is willing to compromise, and it is trying to prevent Blix from presenting to the council on Friday the key unresolved issues that might be used as benchmarks, diplomats said.
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