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Britain: Security Council Close to Agreement on Iraq Resolution - 2002-11-07

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the United Nations Security Council is close to agreement on a new resolution to require Iraq to give up its alleged cache of weapons of mass destruction. But he says it is imperative that Iraq understand it could face military attack, if it fails to comply.

Secretary Straw told parliament Thursday that if the 15 nations on the Security Council can reach unanimous agreement, it could convince Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that he must cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

"The task of the inspectors is to find and to destroy the weapons of mass destruction. The choice for Saddam Hussein is to comply with the United Nations, or face the serious consequences," he said.

Speaking with reporters later, Mr. Straw said those consequences include war. In parliament, Mr. Straw said that Saddam Hussein only acts when he is threatened with attack.

"It is this threat, which in recent weeks has forced Saddam to concede the prospect of readmitting weapons inspectors. And the more credible the threat, the more likely it is that Iraq will respond to the demands of the United Nations," he said.

During the debate in Parliament, the Conservative Party spokesman on foreign affairs, Michael Ancram, expressed concern that France or Russia might veto a new U.N. resolution to protect their financial interests in Iraq.

"If this resolution were to fall because of the veto of permanent members with political or commercial interests in so vetoing, the integrity of the United Nations would be seriously damaged," he said.

Mr. Straw says he doubts any country will cast a veto, and he thinks there could be a unanimous vote in favor of the resolution. A senior British official told reporters afterward that even Syria is giving serious consideration to voting for the resolution.