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France Expects UN to Agree on Iraq Resolution - 2002-11-07

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin says the United Nations Security Council members are on the verge of agreeing on an Iraq resolution, and a vote could take place within days.

Foreign Minister de Villepin told Europe-1 radio that members of the Security Council are "very close to an agreement on an Iraq resolution," after eight weeks of negotiations. He said a vote might take place by week's end, or early next week.

But Mr. de Villepin also said Paris is still negotiating for changes to the text. He repeated France's rejection of an automatic recourse to force, if Iraq fails to comply with arms inspections rules.

The resolution, which would insist Iraq comply with tough new weapons inspections rules, has been stalled by concerns, particularly from France and Russia. Both countries are wary about linking any Iraqi failure to comply with the automatic use of force.

The draft now before the Security Council threatens serious consequences, but sets out a two-stage process, which calls for the Security Council to consult in the event Iraq fails to comply.

The French minister also echoed an earlier call by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other officials for the 15 member Security Council to adopt any final Iraq resolution by unanimous vote.

Thursday, Mr. de Villepin said, he felt more hopeful that a war on Iraq might now be avoided. By contrast in September, he said, many feared such a war could break out at any time.