The United States and Britain are pressing for a vote on Iraq this week in the U.N. Security Council, after Washington presented Wednesday a revised but still tough resolution demanding Baghdad cooperate fully with weapons inspectors.
The new U.S. draft resolution demands unconditional access to all suspected weapons-related sites in Iraq. It gives the U.N. inspectors, who have been out of the country for almost four years, no more than 45 days after adoption of the resolution to resume inspections. And it warns Iraq of serious consequences should it fail to comply fully with efforts to rid Iraq of banned weapons of mass destruction.
The resolution does not give Washington an automatic right to use force against Iraq, which key Council members Russia, France and China oppose. It sets out a two-stage process, close to what the French want, which commits the United States to consult first with the Security Council before deciding on military action.
U.S. ambassador John Negroponte said he reassured the 15-member Council that the United States will not act precipitously. "President Bush has said on repeated occasions that the use of force, war, would be a last resort; that he wants to give the United Nations and the Security Council a chance. And we believe the resolution that we laid down is the best way to achieve the disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means, obviously provided that Iraq complies fully with those obligations," he said.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he wants the Council to act swiftly on Iraq, which means getting the inspectors back in as soon as possible, and in a unified manner. "I have always maintained that it is important that the Council speaks with one voice. And I hope everyone will be seeking a broad consensus. I would prefer, of course, to see a unanimous decision," Mr. Annan said.
However, there still are problems with the revised U.S. draft. For example, it includes a provision for arms inspectors to escort Iraqi scientists out of the country for interviews. Chief arms inspector Hans Blix said this is not workable and has expressed his reservations to Washington. France also is not comfortable with the idea.
The United States has presented its proposals as Iraq's last chance to comply with disarmament demands and its draft resolution as a "final offer." But U.S. diplomats sense they are in the "end-game" on an acceptable resolution and have not ruled out the possibility of making some adjustments in the text.