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Diplomatic Effort to Avert Iraq War Winding Down - 2003-03-13


The diplomatic clock continues to tick at the United Nations, where members of the Security Council are engaged in intense talks over Iraq. Diplomats met into Wednesday evening to try to formulate language on Iraqi disarmament. With the prospect of war looming ever closer, diplomats at the United Nations are poring over a new compromise on Iraqi disarmament proposed by Britain.

The proposal, outlined earlier in the day by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, sets six criteria to test Iraq's compliance with disarmament demands. But a draft text which might be incorporated in a new U.S.-backed resolution - leaves blank the crucial element of how long to give Iraq to comply.

The United States accuses Iraq of continuing delays and wants Security Council to pass a new resolution incorporating a quick deadline for Iraqi compliance. But other nations on the Security Council, led by France, want to give Iraq more time.

If the opposing sides cannot reach a compromise, any new resolution on Iraq, if it is even brought to a vote,- could fail to pass or even face a possible veto by permanent Security Council members France and Russia.

Six Security Council member states are reported to be still uncommitted on voting any new U.S.-backed resolution. President Bush and France's President Jacques Chirac are both engaging in telephone diplomacy to win support for their respective governments' positions.

Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, says his government has not made any decision on whether to support any new U.S.-backed resolution. "We have not taken a decision. And we have not taken a decision because we don't know what we will be asked to vote for in the final moments," he says. "The situation, as we understand it, is still in play."

Emerging from the Security Council's informal consultations Wednesday evening, he said the new British proposal raises additional questions that need to be addressed. "There were some very relevant questions about the status of the [British] paper, the content of the paper, the timelines that are envisaged by the paper," added Mr. Akram. "So those are issues that will need to be fleshed out before we can all come to a decision on whether it has traction and can offer a way forward."

Mr. Akram said discussions among council members will continue Thursday. The United States has said it would like the Security Council to vote on a resolution by the end of the week.

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