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US, Britain, Spain Introduce Draft Resolution at UN Security Council - 2003-02-24

The United States, Britain and Spain have introduced a draft resolution at the U.N. Security Council declaring Iraq has failed its last chance to comply with international demands to disarm, signaling both countries are ready to disarm Iraq by force.

The resolution was presented just as France and Germany, two council members opposed to military action, countered by offering a plan that would give Iraq four more months to fully disarm. A divided Security Council is expected to spend the next two weeks deciding what course of action to take.

This new resolution declares Iraq to be in material breach of its disarmament obligations and calls on the Security Council to conclude that Baghdad has now failed to take the final opportunity to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

"The Iraqi regime is not disarming," President Bush said.

President Bush, at the White House, again warned the United Nations risks irrelevance if it does not approve the measure, which threatens Baghdad with serious consequences if it does not disarm, wording United States and Britain could use as the legal basis for military action.

The president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer said, "The president, as he said over the weekend, is confident that once the Security Council members see the resolution and the matter proceeds to a vote, it will be passed."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expects a vote on what would be the 18th Security Council resolution on Iraq by mid March. "We'll be allowing a good period of up to two weeks, maybe a little more, before we ask for a decision," Mr. Straw said.

But this new resolution was immediately rejected by France and Germany. After meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac told reporters he agrees with a majority of Security Council members who still want to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time.

"In fact, we don't see anything in the present situation to justify a new resolution. War is always the worst solution. It's always a failure. It's always dramatic. It's always tragic and we must do everything to avoid it," Mr. Chirac said.

France and Germany are instead offering a plan that would call for an extended disarmament timeline for Iraq - stretching over four months - with specific steps Baghdad would have to take in order to avoid war.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has already told the council Iraq has not fully disarmed and can not account for many of its banned weapons programs. But that finding has failed to convince a majority of council members that inspections are not working and that war is now the only option left. The United States and Britain need the votes of at least seven of the 15 members of the Security Council - and no vetoes by Russia, China or France - in order for this new resolution to pass. At this point though, they can only count on the votes of Spain and Bulgaria.