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Britain Willing to Negotiate on New UN Iraq Resolution - 2003-03-06

Diplomatic pressure is intensifying for some kind of compromise on military action against Iraq. On Thursday, Britain signaled its willingness to amend a new draft Security Council resolution authorizing a military attack on Iraq.

On the eve of a crucial Security Council meeting, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced his government's openness to new language in a draft resolution on Iraq. "Of course we are ready to discuss the wording of that second resolution and to take onboard any constructive suggestions as to how the process set out in that draft resolution could be improved," he said.

The United States and Britain are trying to get the council to approve a new resolution that would authorize U.S.-led military action against Iraq. But that has run into stiff opposition in the Security Council where some members believe use of military force now is premature and want to give weapons inspections more time. Two members, Russia and France, are holding out the possibility that they might exercise their veto of the proposed new resolution.

On Friday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is to deliver a new report to the council on Iraq's compliance with U.N. disarmament efforts. That report is widely viewed as crucial to the chances of any new resolution being adopted by the Security Council.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday appealed to all sides to seek a compromise on the contentious issue.

Britain is reported to be circulating a draft resolution that sets a short-term deadline for Iraq to disarm or face military action.

Mr. Straw said the United Nations has to keep up the pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But he added that Saddam Hussein could remain in power if he fully disarms in compliance with an earlier Security Council resolution, number 1441.

"The purpose of 1441 is to secure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," said Mr. Straw. "That and that alone, we have made it clear, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made clear repeatedly, that if Iraq complies with 1441, and disarms of its weapons of mass destruction, we accept that the government of Iraq stays in place."

That stance is in opposition to the one held by the United States. The Bush administration has said it seeks what it calls "regime change" in Iraq.