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'Time Running Out for UN Security Council,' White House Spokesman Says - 2002-10-29

The White House says time is running out for the U.N. Security Council to act on Iraq. Officials are also responding to the latest Iraqi proposal on weapons inspections.

As the Security Council prepared to meet once again on Iraq, the White House said the end is near.

Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the U.N. knows it is approaching "decision time."

"Time is running out in New York. They still have some time left to get the job done," he said.

When he appeared before the General Assembly on September 12, President Bush said he was willing to wait days or weeks, but not months for a tough new resolution on Iraq. There are reports the White House intends to force a vote on the matter perhaps next week after U.S. elections. Ari Fleischer stressed the president has set no firm deadlines for the U.N. to pass a disarmament resolution that includes a tough weapons inspection plan. But he left no doubt, patience is getting thin.

"It's been a good debate. It's been a long debate. The time will soon come for the debate to end," Mr. Fleischer said.

The United States wants a Security Council resolution that sets a strong inspection system in place, declares Iraq in violation of past resolutions, and warns of serious consequences if Baghdad does not disarm.

Iraq said Tuesday that it would readmit U.N. weapons inspectors if independent observers witness the inspections. The White House rejected that idea, saying Baghdad is in no position to set conditions, and the U.N. must set up a strict inspection regime.

Experts on the region say the U.S. has a hard sell at the United Nations. Dov Waxman a middle east specialist at Bowdoin College in the state of Maine told VOA that the Bush administration faces an uphill battle.

"It hasn't really persuaded the key members of the Security Council, in particular Russia and France, who are the key members here in terms of securing their vote or at least preventing their veto," Mr. Waxman said.

France, Russia and China have all expressed reservations about the U.S. draft resolution before the Security Council. They have raised concerns that the reference to "serious consequences" in the text might be used by the Bush administration to trigger military action.