The United Nations Security Council Friday unanimously adopted a resolution giving Iraq one final chance to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction, or face serious consequences. Iraq has one week to accept the terms and promise to comply.
The resolution, drafted by the United States with the help of Britain, sets new, tough guidelines for U.N. weapons inspections. demands the inspectors, who have been out of the country for four years, be given an unconditional and unfettered right to search everywhere in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, including Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, says Iraq would be well-advised to cooperate fully, if it wants to avoid possible military action.
"The choice is up to Iraq. Either it complies with this resolution, or it faces serious consequences," he said. " I think you could say, there is a policy of zero-tolerance with respect to failures to comply with this resolution. And I think the fact that we achieved consensus this morning by a vote of 15-0 sends a strong and powerful message to the government of Iraq."
The American ambassador told the Security Council, Washington intends to disarm Iraq one way or another.
But Council members made very clear the United States does not have an automatic right to use force. The resolution binds Washington to consult with the Council, should a serious violation occur before a military strike.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a special appeal to Iraq to comply with the new program for disarmament, and signaled that the Security Council is obliged to follow through, if Iraq fails to seize this last opportunity.
"I urge the Iraqi leadership, for the sake of its own people, and for the sake of world order, to seize this opportunity, and thereby begin to end the isolation and suffering of the Iraqi people," Mr. Annan said. "If Iraq's defiance continues, however, the Security Council must face its responsibilities."
A unanimous vote on the resolution is considered a diplomatic achievement given reservations expressed by Russia and France for the past two months. Even Syria, the only Arab member of the Council, voted in favor of the resolution.