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Key  Security Council Members Balk at US Stance on Iraq - 2003-01-24

The United Nation's chief arms inspector Hans Blix is preparing the much anticipated report to be submitted to the Security Council next Monday on the search of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Key members on the Security Council continue to disagree about how to deal with Saddam Hussein.

France's ambassador to the United Nations, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said there is support in the U.N. Security Council for trying to disarm Iraq peacefully without a second resolution authorizing war.

"There is, on the basis of this resolution, a real chance to be sure that Iraq will be disarmed through peaceful means and this is what we are saying and we do think that many members in the [security] Council agree with this position," he said.

Security Council Resolution 1441, passed in November, warns of "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to disarm. The deadline for imposing those "consequences," and whether that cutoff date is indeed next Monday when Hans Blix submits his report, is the subject of ongoing debate.

The United States and Great Britain say Iraq is not cooperating fully with inspectors.

During a meeting [Thursday] in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told reporters that Britain would prefer a second resolution, authorizing war, if necessary. Mr. Powell reiterated the U.S. stance that it will take action against Iraq if the United Nations does not do so, and does not have to worry about taking acting alone.

But France, the current president of the Security Council, has hinted that it might use its veto power to halt authorizing military action against Iraq. China and Russia along with Germany, which assumes the rotating presidency of the Security Council next month, have all said that the inspectors should be given more time to do their job.

After a closed-door meeting with high level officials of UNMOVIC, the U.N. mission to disarm Iraq, Mr. Blix said the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, may need more time to search for nuclear weapons. But Mr. Blix again said that if Iraq cooperates, his team could complete their job searching for other deadly weapons quickly.

"If Iraq shows the cooperation or respect that is asked of them, then it could be a fast process, if it provided the evidence that is needed it could be fast now as it could have been fast in 1991 and if you do not have that cooperation and respect then it can drag out, as it did in 1991," added Mr. Blix. However, he described Iraqi cooperation as "mixed bag."