France and Russia have indicated they will vote against a Security Council draft resolution on disarming Iraq that was proposed by the United States, Britain and Spain. The resolution would set a March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm or authorize military force.
During the debate on how to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, attention has focused on the five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
It is those five nations that hold veto-power on the 15-member council. This means a resolution that has the necessary nine votes to pass, could still be defeated or blocked if one permanent member casts a negative vote.
Jeffrey Laurenti is the director of policy studies at the private United Nations Association of the United States. "So it can take one single permanent member to block it with its negative vote. On the other hand, if you can not get nine votes, then it does not matter how other permanent members have voted. The resolution is defeated."
As the debate on Iraq intensifies, France and Russia have indicated that they will vote against a draft resolution authorizing war. Veto-wielding China also says it opposes the use of military force against Iraq in favor of more inspections.
Mr. Laurenti says in the past decade, the United States has been the most frequent permanent member of the council to use its veto power to block resolutions. But during the early years of the Cold War, following the establishment of the United Nations, the Soviet Union used the veto most often. Mr. Laurenti says that Joseph Stalin himself insisted on the rule allowing the veto. "What we would now view as the dead hand of Joseph Stalin still is alive in the Security Council because it was Stalin who insisted on a veto for the permanent members," he says. "(It) did, indeed, prove to hobble the United Nations Security Council during the period of deep Cold War divisions between the communist and capitalist worlds."
So far, only Britain, Bulgaria, Spain and the United States, have openly backed disarming Iraq by force.
Six non-permanent countries on the council -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea, and Pakistan -- have yet to publicly commit themselves on the issue.
Jeffrey Laurenti says that, although they do not have veto power, the rotating non-permanent members have the task of keeping the permanent members in check. "The Security Council was created as a kind of hybrid between world power politics realities, that you had five countries that had staggered through World War II as the principal victors and Rooseveltian democracy with which you would elect 10 members to ensure that the five would not try to run the world to their own convenience," he says.
Mr. Laurenti says should the Security Council vote against the draft resolution, the issue could go to the entire General Assembly in a symbolic, non-binding so-called "united for peace resolution" to pressure Iraq to disarm. But the United States has not indicated it would take the measure to the General Assembly if it is blocked by the council, and has said it is willing to disarm Iraq without UN approval.