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Britain, US Will Wait 2 Weeks before Vote on New UN Resolution - 2003-02-24

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says his country and the United States will wait at least two weeks before they seek a vote on a new United Nations resolution on Iraq. Mr. Straw and other European Union foreign ministers are again disagreeing about the need for such a resolution.

As he arrived at EU headquarters, Mr. Straw told reporters that international unity on Iraq is important, but that the debate at the United Nations cannot go on indefinitely.

He says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to disarm, and is only playing the international community for more time. "We want the cooperation of Iraq fully and completely, to comply in substance, as well as process. We will be allowing a good period of up to two weeks, maybe a little more, before we ask for a decision. It is still not too late," Mr. Straw said.

The United States and Britain, together with Spain and Bulgaria, favor a second resolution. But they need five more votes on the 15-member Security Council to get one approved. A British diplomat says he thinks at least two more non-permanent members of the Council will sign on to a second resolution. But the diplomat says the two-week period outlined by Mr. Straw is needed to persuade other Council members.

France, the most vocal opponent of any military action against Saddam Hussein, immediately reacted to the push for a second resolution, saying such a move is neither useful, nor necessary. French President Jacques Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, told reporters in Paris that the use of force against Iraq can only be a last resort. Ms. Colonna said France will unveil new proposals at the United Nations Monday that are aimed at reinforcing measures already in place to disarm Iraq. But she provided no details.

At the same time, the French government is insisting that Saddam Hussein get rid of its al-Samoud missiles, as demanded by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. In an interview with the newspaper Le Figaro, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said the destruction of the missiles would be a positive step.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who will meet with Mr. Chirac Monday night in Berlin to coordinate French and German diplomatic options on the Iraq issue, also rejected a new resolution. His foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said that peaceful means to disarm Iraq have by no means been exhausted.

The European Union tried last week with some success to paper over the differences between its member states on the Iraq question. But it appears that those divisions are still simmering and will not go away anytime soon.