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UN Security Council Considers Competing Proposals on Iraq - 2003-02-25

The United States, Britain and Spain Monday submitted a resolution to the U.N. Security Council declaring that Iraq failed to disarm. France, Russia and Germany have countered with their own plan for more inspections.

The draft resolution, formally submitted by Britain, says that Baghdad has failed to take advantage of a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock says the document aims to break the pattern of inspections and to pressure Iraq to peacefully give up its weapons of mass destruction.

"Yes, we are asking hard decisions of the Council. Yes, members of the Council would much rather not be put into that position at this time. I can understand that. But yes, also, Iraq has a final chance to disarm willingly, voluntarily and peacefully if it takes the opportunity in 1441.

The resolution would declare Iraq in material breach of past resolutions, including number 1441, which returned weapons inspectors to Iraq and threatened Baghdad with "serious consequence" for non-compliance.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte told reporters that, although the 15-member Security Council will be given time to discuss the new document, the debate can not continue indefinitely.

"It is not exactly as if we rushed to judgment on this," he said. "We think that now, after more than 90 days, it has become amply apparent that Iraq does not intend to comply with the provisions of [Resolution) 1441] and we think that this is a draft resolution that is deserving, fully deserving of the support of the other members of the council."

But the Security Council is sharply divided on how to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, with a majority of its members opposed to the use of military force.

France, Russia and Germany have submitted their own plan calling for continued and intensified weapons inspections. Their plan would continue the peaceful route to Iraq's disarmament for several more months.

The United States and Britain say they are skeptical of the plan to intensfy inspections, but France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere says that a new resolution is not necessary.

"It is very clear that the priority is that Iraq should be disarmed peacefully. Now, the time has not come to discuss if all of these options are exhausted. The time has not come to discuss a military option. We do think that the use of force should be a last resort," he said.

No vote is expected in the Council for at least two weeks. The Security Council will reconvene Thursday to discuss the issue.

The United States is facing an uphill struggle in having the Council adopt its plan. China, France and Russia, all veto-holding countries, are opposed, as are eight of the 10 non-permanent member. Only Spain and Bulgaria have said they back the U.S. position.

Separately, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has given Iraq until Saturday to begin dismantling its al-Samoud 2 missiles, which were found to violate the 150-kilometer range limit imposed by the United Nations. In a television interview, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein said Iraq does not intend to destroy the banned missiles.