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UN Security Council Remains Divided on Iraq After Weapons Report - 2003-02-14

A divided U.N. Security Council listened to Friday's report from the United Nations' top weapons inspectors.

After hearing the report Friday by chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei, France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said his country was not ready to authorize military action against Iraq. He proposed the Security Council hear another progress report on weapons inspections on March 14. "In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, the guardians of a conscience," he said. "The onerous responsibility and immense honor we have must lead us to give priority to disarmament through peace. This message comes to you today from an old country, France, from a continent like mine, Europe, which has known war, occupation, barbarity."

Many members of the Security Council applauded Mr. de Villepin's remarks.

Permanent council members China and Russia said the inspection process should continue. And Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council, said that it supports a French plan to intensify the inspection process.

But Spain's foreign minister was critical of Iraq, and told the council that Iraq still has failed to cooperate.

British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw stressed the same point. He asked Mr. Blix if Iraq has come to real acceptance of the inspection process. Mr. Straw reiterated the U.S. and British stance that Iraq has deceived inspectors, failed to disarm and is in material breach of resolution 1441. "In the 11 years, seven months and 12 days, quite a lot of time since the council's deadline for Iraq has run out, what have they done? They've lied, they have concealed, they have played games," said Mr. Straw.

He said the Security Council must keep its word to impose "serious consequences" on Iraq if it fails to comply and disarm.

In his remarks, Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Mohammed Aldouri, told the Security Council that Iraq wants to disarm through peaceful means. He said Iraq has genuinely decided to prove that it is free of weapons of mass destruction.