U.S. Raises Prospect of Abandoning Effort for U.N. Vote
By Joel Brinkley
The New York Times
Thursday 13 March 2003
The Bush administration, acknowledging today that its drive to build support for a new United Nations resolution on Iraq had bogged down, said it was willing to postpone the vote until next week, and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell even suggested that Washington might simply drop its push for a vote altogether.
"The options remain go for a vote and see what members say, or not go for a vote," Secretary Powell told a Congressional committee. "All the options that you can imagine are before us, and we will be examining them today, tomorrow and into the weekend."
For the last week, President Bush insisted that Friday was the iron-fast deadline for a decision, and that the United States would call for a vote by then no matter what the vote count appeared to be. But with the diplomatic situation deteriorating, Secretary Powell's statement showed that the Bush administration was moving to hedge its bets.
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair also said that chances were dimming for passage of the resolution, which would provide broad United Nations backing for a military move against Baghdad.
The Conservative opposition leader Duncan Smith said after meeting with Mr. Blair at 10 Downing Street, "The prime minister today told me that although they want to try to secure a second resolution in the U.N. and will continue to do so, that second resolution is now probably less likely than at any time before."
As their prospects darkened, both Washington and London angrily laid blame today on the French. One day after Britain floated a new compromise proposal before the Security Council, the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "France rejected the British proposal even before the Iraqis did." That sentiment was echoed in London. "I find it extraordinary that without even proper consideration, the French government has decided they will reject these proposals," Foreign Minister Jack Straw said.
The British proposal set out six benchmark tests that Iraq would have to pass in the next week or so to avert an invasion, like producing the anthrax and VX nerve gas that United Nations inspectors found in past years or providing documentation that it had been destroyed.
Washington offered only qualified acceptance of the British plan on Wednesday. By today it was clear that the proposal had not turned the tide.
On Wednesday, Washington and London counted Guinea among three countries on the 15-member Security Council that had informally agreed to back the resolution, which is sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain. But today, Guinea announced on state radio that it might abstain, putting among the six undecided members. The other two nations said to be willing to vote for the resolution, Angola and Cameroon, have said nothing publicly about how they intend to vote.
Chile is another country that Washington had looked to for support. Chile recently completed a free-trade agreement with Washington that awaits Congressional ratification. But when reporters asked President Ricardo Lagos today if he would vote with the United States, he responded, "No, that is not true."
The White House said President Bush, as he has all week, was continuing to call world leaders to seek support. Britain, meanwhile, was furiously working to tailor its new proposal to try to gain support.
One important provision calls on Saddam Hussein to give a televised address in which he will admit that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction, something Iraq has steadfastly denied, and will give them up.
Mr. Straw, the British foreign secretary, said London was willing to drop the television idea, given that other Security Council members had objected to it.
"If the only issue between us, our partners in the Security Council and Saddam Hussein is whether or not he makes a TV broadcast," Straw said, "then we'd happily drop that."
Iraq issued a blistering rejection of the British proposal today, particularly that provision.
Foreign Minister Naji Sabri called the British proposal "an aggressive plan for war." And referring to the demand that Mr. Hussein appear on television, he added: "Britain and the United States, in their attempts to personalize the issue and distract from the real intentions of their colonialist and Zionist plot against Arabs and Muslims, are trying to focus on individuals. There is no reason whatsoever for this."
Even as Iraq attacked the British plan, it issued another statement that seemed intended to undermine it. Baghdad said it would submit a report to United Nations weapons inspectors on Friday that would detail how it had disposed of its VX nerve agent. A similar report on its anthrax stores would be forthcoming "in a few days," the Iraqis said.
The United States has asserted since last summer that Iraq maintains vast stores of these and other chemical and biological agents, but Iraq has repeatedly insisted that it destroyed those stockpiles long ago. For months, weapons inspectors have been pushing Iraq to provide documentation of that.
At the Untied Nations today, Secretary General Kofi Annan repeated his call for compromise, saying, "I would urge all council members to cooperate and work in search of that compromise."
But no one seemed to be in a compromising mood. France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, quickly rejected the new British proposal. "It's not a question of giving Iraq a few more days before committing to the use of force," he said. "It's about making resolute progress toward peaceful disarmament, as mapped out by inspections that offer a credible alternative to war."
Within hours, Germany and Russia fell in line with France rejecting the new proposal, with Russia repeating its threat to veto any resolution calling for military action, even indirectly.
Asked today why the United States and Britain were finding it so difficult to win support for their resolution, Secretary Powell said that some council members had apparently not understood that "the U.S. was deadly serious" when the council approved a resolution last November threatening "serious consequences" if Iraq did not disarm.
As the diplomatic situation grew murkier, war planning continued. A United States military spokesman confirmed that several B-2 stealth bombers had left their base in Missouri overnight and now were in the Persian Gulf. And Britain dispatched 850 more troops to the region.
The British defense secretary, Geoff Hoon, acknowledging the uncertainty of the current situation, said the additional forces would provide "further flexibility to respond to a range of possible tasks and circumstances."
The Second Resolution on Its Way to Disappearing
La Liberation, Paris
Thursday 13 March 2003
The British proposal fits into "a logic of war," regret France, Germany, Russia, and China, who rejected it Thursday morning. The U.S. and Great Britain could decide to forgo a new vote.
No and No. Tony Blair's last attempt to convince the United Nations Security Council to adopt a second resolution that would open the way to war in Iraq was coldly received.
Wednesday, the British Prime Minister proposed in effect to add an addendum to the proposal listing six conditions Iraq would have to meet to avoid a war (This is to say: Blair is diluting his warrior ferocity). France, Russia, and Germany rejected him Thursday morning.
After this setback, Tony Blair, ever more isolated at the UN, considers the adoption of a new resolution on Iraq less and less likely. The Tory leader, Duncan Smith, who reported his statements following a Thursday interview at Downing Street, added: "A military action is approaching and will therefore be conducted within the framework of resolution 1441."
France opened fire Thursday morning. The British proposals "don't respond to the questions posed by the international community: it's not a question of giving Iraq a few extra days before resorting to force, but of going forward resolutely along the path of peaceful disarmament
outlined by the inspectors, which is a credible alternative to war", affirmed Foreign Affairs Minister Dominique de Villepin. The British proposal on Iraq fits into "a logic of war" and "that is not acceptable", he continued, during the 13:00 Journal on France 2 TV.
"I find it unheard of that the French government should decide to reject these proposals without even studying them closely," responded Foreign Office Secretary, Jack Straw.
Peking has hardly been gentler than Paris. China has taken note of the last British proposals, but there is no question of a second resolution. "A new resolution is not necessary. Resolution 1441 has not yet been exhausted and the implementation of this resolution is making progress", specified the spokesperson for foreign affairs, Kong Quan.
The list of six British conditions has not yet moved Russia. "If the proposal directly or indirectly opens the way to military action in Iraq, Russia will vote against it" warned Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Ivanov, during a visit to Tajikistan. His vice-minister, Iouri Fedotov, emphasized that the implementation of the criteria which Baghdad would have to meet according to the new British proposals demand "a certain amount of time." Leaving the door open: "For the moment, it's premature to foresee how Russia will vote because there is no concrete proposal on
the table," he insisted.
The problem with the British proposal is that it relies on the same logic contained in the proposal first presented by the United States, Great Britain, and Spain, a logic which prejudges the outcome" of the crisis, declared Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Counselor for Foreign Policy, Bernd Muetzelburg, on German public television's ARD channel. The text still constitutes a "green light for war".
With or without the British "amendments", the second resolution proposed by the United States, Britain, and Spain is now more than ever in question, with no date given for it to be put to a vote. This proposal, lodged February 24 and amended Friday, gives Iraq until Monday March 17 to prove its "complete, unconditional, and immediate cooperation" and its willingness to disarm. The United States Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, reaffirmed Wednesday that the final date for Iraq to disarm remains March 17 and that the cosignatories had not suggested it be changed. He allowed it to be understood that a "very very brief extension" was possible, but that he "didn't wish to speak of something measured in days."
The Security Council will continue its deliberations Thursday until 15h00 (20h00 GMT). Vote or not, majority or not, the United States, like Great Britain, seems ready to settle for the first resolution. Richard Perle, one of President George Bush's advisors, on the airwaves of RTL (Radio Television Luxembourg) reaffirmed Thursday that rejection of the second resolution would not prevent the United States from going to war. Has France betrayed the United States? "I can't see any other explanation for threatening to veto the second resolution."
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