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Chief Arms Inspector Seeks Strong UN Iraq Resolution

The chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says the threat of "serious consequences" for Iraq's failure to cooperate with inspectors would make the U.N. job easier. Mr. Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, expressed their views in a meeting with the Security Council Monday, as the U.N. body began critical negotiations on a controversial U.S. draft resolution.

Mr. Blix declined to accept responsibility for war or peace in Iraq. He says his mission is to conduct inspections for banned weapons of mass destruction, and it is up to the Security Council to decide whether any failure by Baghdad would lead to military action.

"Our job is to report and the decision whether there is war or peace, or reaction, that is for the Council and its members," he said.

However, the chief U.N. arms inspector says it would strengthen his mission if Iraq were to realize from the outset that serious consequences would follow a lack of cooperation.

"I think it helps us if Iraq is conscious that non-cooperation will entail reactions by the Council," he said.

Mr. Blix has delayed sending the inspectors back into Iraq, after an absence of almost four years, while the Security Council discusses adopting tougher guidelines for his mission. Mr. Blix would like a unified stand out of the Council. He believes any perception in Baghdad of division would weaken the hand of his inspectors, as they seek unfettered access to all suspected sites.

But time seems to be running out for the Security Council to find some sort of compromise on a new resolution. Six weeks of negotiations between the United States and key Council members Russia, China and France, have failed to break a deadlock over the U.S. insistence on including a warning about possible military action if Iraq fails to cooperate. The Bush administration is pressing for a vote this week. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Council has debated the issue long enough.

None of the opponents of the U.S. draft, which, among the key Council members, only Britain supports, has ruled out punitive action against Iraq. But they insist that it be considered only if the inspectors report serious problems.

Diplomats fear certain language in the U.S. resolution could trigger the automatic use of force, providing Washington with legal cover for a possible attack on its own.