Urgent Diplomacy Fails to Gain U.S. 9 Votes in the U.N

Monday, 10 March 2003 06:41 by: Anonymous

     Editor's Note:  This is one of the first truly interesting breakthroughs to come from the impasse we have endured for the last several weeks on the Iraq war issue.  Faced with a revolt within the Security Council and unfriendly poll numbers at home, Blair has been forced to cobble together a compromise resolution to put before the UN.  For the first time, Iraq is being told specifically what it must do to avoid war.  Previously, the requirements were nebulous: "Disarm, or else."  Now they have a laundry list, one which can be fulfilled. - wrp

     Blair Sets Out Final Terms to Avoid War
     Bush, Powell Lose Diplomatic Game
     Kamal Ahmed and Ed Vulliamy
     The Observer

     Sunday 9 March 2003

     Saddam ordered to destroy hundreds of Scud and chemicals missiles - PM 'will get backing' for Iraq ultimatum - Ministers threaten to quit

     Saddam Hussein is to be given a 'final and non-negotiable' list of weapons he must destroy or account for within six days to prevent a devastating onslaught from American and British forces.

     In a stark outline of the endgame for Iraq, Britain and the US are to publish a set of disarmament 'trip-points' detailing specific weapons in his arsenal that the United Nations has listed in a private report to the Security Council circulated this weekend.

     With the international community seemingly split on whether the Iraqi dictator should be given more time to comply with resolution 1441, British officials told The Observer that the targets would be based on the UN report by Hans Blix, the head of the weapons inspectors.

     Tony Blair hopes that by relying on evidence supplied by the UN itself to push through the vital second resolution on war, Britain and America will avoid accusations that they will act against Iraq whatever the UN says. He also wants to head off a growing rebellion of backbench MPs and the threat of resignation by up to 30 Ministers if no second resolution is achieved.

     Last night a number of junior Ministers were named as being ready to resign if there was no second resolution. Anne Campbell, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Patricia Hewitt, the Trade Secretary, Andy Reed, aide to Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, and Michael Jabez Foster, who works for Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, have all said they would consider their position.

     More than 200 backbench MPs are also likely to rebel if a vote is taken in the Commons on conflict with Iraq without a second resolution.

     'What we are going to do is give Saddam a clear ultimatum,' said a senior Downing Street figure. 'What we want to do in the next few days is express clearly what he has to do.'

     Number 10 said that the process of fortnightly reports by Blix had now run its course and that it was time for the Security Council to come to a decision.

     'We believe the Blix process is now complete,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said. 'There is not full and immediate compliance [by Iraq].

     'We want to emphasise that this can still be resolved peacefully if Saddam Hussein decides to disarm. He is only going to make that decision if he believes that this time it is really different.'

     It was clear last night that the international community was facing the final make or break week on Iraq. In a desperate plea for more time, France said yesterday it would not support the resolution and made an official appeal for a summit of world leaders to discuss the looming conflict. Russia also said it was opposed to any resolution that 'authorised war'.

     The position of the two permanent members of the Security Council, which both have the power of the veto, is supported by Germany and Syria. Britain and America's position was supported yesterday by Spain and Bulgaria. The British and US 'trip points' will be based on a summary draft of Blix's UN report circulated by Number 10 yesterday. The document demands that Saddam:

     * accounts for Iraq's al-Hussein missile system and 50 Scud Bs which the UN says 'may have been retained for a proscribed missile force';

     * explains the illegal import of 131 Volga engines for its al-Samoud 2 missile system and why Unmovic, the UN inspections team, had later found 231 engines and documentation for a further 150;

     * accounts for and destroys 550 mustard gas shells and 350 R-400 bombs, which are capable of carrying chemical and biological weapons, which are still outstanding;

     * reveals the whereabouts of 80 tonnes of mustard gas as well as VX, Sarin and Soman gas.

     It is likely that the resolution will be voted on by the middle of this week. If Britain and America succeed in getting the nine votes needed to pass the resolution then Saddam would have until 17 March to comply. If he did not do so military conflict would begin soon after.

     If the resolution is passed Government sources said that the Commons would be given a vote on the issue with a possible emergency recall of Parliament next weekend.

     Downing Street was bullish last night about the chances of getting the required nine votes to pass the resolution. Sources close to Blair said that all the diplomatic effort would be aimed at persuading the key 'middle six' countries - Pakistan, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Chile - to support the resolution.

     An ICM poll for the News of the World today shows that 68 per cent of the public now back military action, with only 22 per cent opposed. Nearly 80 per cent of those who supported action said that there should be a second resolution.

     And Dr Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Today programme that Saddam had to demonstrate a 'dramatic' change in attitude. 'Clearly the ball is very much in Iraq's court,' ElBaradei said.

     'I hope that Iraq understands that they need to have a dramatic change in their attitude to demonstrate to the international community that they are fully, actively co-operating in providing evidence that they do not have chemical and biological weapons.'

     (*Editors Note | If Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell care to know why they are facing such resistance from nations usually supportive of America they need look no further than the TIME Magazine Europe poll that asked the question 'What country today poses the greatest threat to international security?', Answer : Iraq 9% -- North Korea 7% -- The United States 84%. This article like the last also examines the critical emergence of specific demands by Bush and Blair; there are at long last tangible points on which to act. -- ma)

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     Urgent Diplomacy Fails to Gain U.S. 9 Votes in the U.N.
     By Steven R. Weisman with Felicity Barringer
     New York Times

     Monday 10 March 2003

     WASHINGTON, March 9 - After a weekend of urgent diplomacy, the Bush administration has so far fallen short of lining up nine votes on the United Nations Security Council in favor of a resolution that would threaten Saddam Hussein with war if Iraq did not disarm, administration officials said today.

     The officials said they remained hopeful that at least 9 of the 15 Council members would eventually back the resolution, introduced by Britain on Friday and setting a March 17 deadline for Iraqi compliance. Also on Friday, the United States put others on notice to be ready for a vote on Tuesday, but one official said the vote could slip until later in the week as efforts continued to widen American support.

     Chile and Guinea, two crucial swing votes, indicated over the weekend that they were not yet ready to say yes.

     "We don't have it in the bank," an administration official said, adding that the United States would nonetheless press for a vote this week.

     As part of the effort to persuade wavering Council members, an administration official said the United States would "likely" agree to define the benchmarks Iraq would have to meet before the deadline, although those would almost certainly be specified outside the resolution.

     Iraq, meanwhile, said it was doing all it could to cooperate already. Any remaining questions about its disarmament, it said, were "technical aspects" being exploited by the United States and Britain as a "pretext" for war. [Page A9.]

     The statement seemed intended to deepen divisions between Washington and its allies. Even the staunchest of these, Prime Minister Tony Blair, faced widening dissent as a leading cabinet secretary threatened to quit if Britain supported war without a resolution. [Page A10.]

     With other major European allies in open opposition to war, the Bush administration has for several weeks pursued a strategy of trying to get nine Security Council votes committed in support of a resolution, and then hope that France and Russia would at least abstain and not wield a veto in the face of a majority.

     Both France and Russia, along with China, the United States and Britain, have the power to kill a measure on the Security Council if they vote no. France has said it would not "allow" a war measure to pass, which has been interpreted to mean that it will indeed use its veto.

     But some American officials say they believe that the French may be bluffing and would not want to be seen as blocking a measure with broad backing. Administration officials also hope that Russia might abstain rather than veto, isolating France as the only negative among the five veto-bearing members.

     Administration officials say that even with a veto, a measure that has received nine votes might command moral legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world.

     As the diplomatic efforts unfolded, administration officials said on television today that there could be no delay past March 17. Privately, however, some officials said it might be possible for that deadline to slip slightly if that would help secure nine votes on the Council.

     "If somebody comes to us and says, `Give us a few more days, and we'll vote for you,' it's something we would have to consider," an administration official said. But he ruled out any delay longer than that, on the grounds that it would seem only to weaken Western resolve.

     Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, appearing on television today, stuck firmly with the March 17 deadline.

     "If there is a resolution passed and he hasn't done what is required by the 17th, then he's lost his last chance," Mr. Powell said referring to Mr. Hussein. "At that point, I think there's a high likelihood that military force is what's going to disarm Saddam Hussein by changing his regime."

     In recent days there appeared to be divisions in the administration and between the United States and its closest ally, Britain, over the setting of deadlines. It was Britain that persuaded a reluctant President Bush to agree last week to include a new deadline in the next resolution.

     British diplomats argued that extending the deadline to March 17 was necessary to get the votes, especially of Chile and Guinea, two of six wavering members of the Council. Of the nine votes needed, four are committed - the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. So the United States needs five of the six uncommitted nations.

     Over the weekend, the press in Chile printed statements from President Ricardo Lagos that Chile wanted the deadline extended a bit further than March 17. Similar comments were made by a Guinean diplomat on Friday.

     At a closed session of the Security Council on Friday afternoon, the Chilean envoy, Gabriel Valdes, pushed for adding some benchmarks to the resolution to measure Iraqi compliance, according to two people present.

     Without them, he asked in frustration how could anyone know if Iraq had complied, the two observers said. They said Mr. Valdes had questioned how anyone could recognize a change of heart by Mr. Hussein. "Is it like a religious conversion?" he asked.

     In the last two weeks, Chilean diplomats have suggested a compromise framework resembling one put forward last month by Canada. The Canadian plan envisions a short-term deadline, possibly of March 31, with interim reports from United Nations weapons inspectors on how Iraq is complying.

     Speaking today on the ABC News program "This Week," Canada's prime minister, Jean Chr tien, said: "I thought that there is a way to bridge, probably it's too late, but the Americans and the Brits and the Spaniards moved yesterday. But they need probably to move more. That is the impression I have."

     He added, "Perhaps a couple of more weeks could help - I don't know."

     Appearing on Fox television today, Mr. Powell was asked whether it was true, as former President Jimmy Carter had asserted, that the United States' world stature had plunged and that most countries in the world no longer trusted Washington.

     Denying the charge, Mr. Powell listed Spain, Britain, Bulgaria, Portugal, Australia and several nations once in the orbit of the Soviet Union as supportive.

     "We need to knock down this idea that nobody is on our side," he said. "So many nations recognize this danger. And they do it in the face of public opposition."

     But once again over the weekend, the United States was facing tough questions by the nations it was courting, principally in their citations of statements in reports by Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, that their inspection program was disclosing weapons and succeeding in getting many of them destroyed.

     In an interview on Saturday, Dr. ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: "Iraq today in our assessment, we do not have any evidence that Iraq has a nuclear weapons program or has revived its defunct nuclear weapons program. We still have work to do. This is still an interim assessment. I have said that I need at least two to three months." He was referring to the time before a more complete judgment could be made.

     Even with the extra time, he said, "I can never give absolute guarantees." adding: "We minimize the risks to the extent possible. But because there is always a certain degree of risk in any inspection process, I'd like to be there acting as a deterrence, acting as a powerful verification to make sure if we have missed something, if Iraq has changed its mind, we are there.

     "That's really the function of an inspection," he said. "We are not gods. We do not provide any certification."

     American diplomats acknowledged that their biggest challenge was in persuading the world, particularly the other Council members, that Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei were incorrect when they suggested that the inspections were working so well that they needed more time to carry them out.

     With more than a quarter of a million troops massing in the Persian Gulf, an atmosphere of "it's now or never" is pervading American officials' comments, even though much of the world does not see it that way.

     The diplomatic wrangling aside, military analysts have suggested that if it does come to war, the United States might want to begin military action before April, when temperatures start to soar in the gulf.

     Mr. Powell said that Mr. Blix was "a decent, honest man" but that it was difficult to go along with French demands for more inspections when it was the French, he said, who opposed further inspections in the late 1990's.

     He warned that if France did veto the resolution, the United States and France would remain friends but that such an action "will have a serious effect on bilateral relations at least in the short term."

     Ms. Rice, asked on ABC television if the United States would be willing to give Iraq another week or two after March 17, declined to answer. "We're talking to our allies; we're talking to people on the Security Council," she said. "But we really believe that the time has come for the Security Council to stand up and be counted here."

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