The United States says it opposes the return of U.N. inspectors to Iraq without new instructions from the Security Council providing for unlimited access to suspected weapons sites. The comments came after Iraq and U.N. officials announced an agreement in Vienna that could lead to the return of some inspectors within two weeks.
Officials here say there must be a new Security Council resolution spelling out tougher terms for inspections and the consequences of Iraqi non-compliance. And until that happens, they say U.S. diplomats will do whatever they can to "thwart" the early return of inspection teams.
The State Department gave a chilly response to an announcement by chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix in Vienna of an agreement with Iraq providing for a resumption of inspections under 1998 rules that exempt so-called "presidential sites" in Iraq from scrutiny.
Spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States is continuing its diplomatic drive for a new resolution giving U.N. personnel unrestricted inspection rights, and that Mr. Blix had met the Iraqis with the understanding that any agreement reached would be subject to further instructions from the Security Council.
"We obviously look forward to hearing from Dr. Blix once he finishes this round of consultations with the Iraqis. I think he's due to brief the Security Council on Thursday. And he has made clear, as we have made clear that these procedural discussions that he's having now are also subject to any further guidance that he might get from the Security Council in the form of a new resolution, new instructions and new authority. And we continue to work with other members of the council to come up with a resolution that makes clear the need for thorough and unfettered inspections, and the need for consequences if Iraq refuses to cooperate," Mr. Boucher said.
The Bush administration is continuing to work at the U.N. and with telephone diplomacy for a new resolution setting deadlines for Iraqi compliance and stating that "all necessary means" would be used in the event Iraq violated the terms of the Security Council measure.
Mr. Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell had new telephone conversations Tuesday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and with French Foreign Minister Dominique Villepin.
Britain is closely cooperating with the United States in preparing the draft Security Council resolution, while France and Russia both veto-wielding permanent members of the council have resisted the drive for what amounts to an ultimatum to Iraq.
France is advocating a more softly-worded two-tier resolution process that the Bush administration says would delay a military response if Iraq failed to comply.
The Bush administration has not completely ruled out the possibility of accepting a two-resolution approach as a way of avoiding a French veto.
However a senior official here said U.S. diplomats believe strongly that Iraq will cooperate with U.N. inspectors only if the consequences of non-compliance are clearly spelled out, in advance, in a single Security Council resolution.