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Germany Backs French Plan for More Iraq Inspectors - 2003-02-12

Germany says it supports a preliminary French proposal to increase the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq. The plan is now proving to be another source of disagreement in the U-N Security Council, already divided over the next step to disarm Iraq.

Germany's ambassador to the United Nations, Gunter Pleuger, says it is up to France to decide if it will present the working paper distributed to the Security Council as a new resolution. But Mr. Plueger says Germany, the current president of the council, backs the proposal to strengthen the daily search for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq. "We support it, we support it," he says.

The French-initiated document proposes a detailed plan to double or triple the number of inspectors in Iraq from about 110 to as many as 360. In the words of the document, the aim is to "intensify the inspections, make them more intrusive and enable the inspectors to deal with sites that are widely spread out."

It also reiterates the Security Council's call on Iraq to "cooperate immediately, actively and unconditionally." But the Bush Administration, backed by Britain, says Iraq has had more than enough time to change its attitude toward inspections. Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says what was needed is not additional inspectors, but a shift in Iraq's cooperation.

Asked about the French document, a spokesman from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Rick Grinell, told reporters that increasing the number of inspectors would be useless because of Iraq's failure to cooperate. "The point is, it does not matter how many inspectors you put in there, if you have an unwilling government that is going to hide, then they are not demonstrating their willingness to disarm and the inspectors have to then play games of trying to find things," says Mr. Grinell. "You need to be open and they are not being open."

Diplomatic efforts both in the United States and Europe have so far failed to resolve the disagreement over whether to continue inspections or authorize military action. Some Security Council members, including Bulgaria and Spain back the U.S. and British stance on Iraq. But among the opponents are permanent members with veto power: France, Russia and China.

France first alluded to its plan in the Security Council last week, following U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of intelligence information to try to sway the council to take further action to disarm Iraq.

The French are circulating the preliminary plan calling for more inspectors just days before another highly anticipated progress report by Mr. Blix and International Atomic Energy head Mohammed ElBaradei. They will deliver their findings on Friday.

Discussions of their report have been scheduled to continue through the beginning of next week, when non-Council members will have a chance to participate in the debate.