The British Foreign Office has been working in recent weeks to win United Nations approval of a second U.N. resolution on Iraq.
Foreign office officials are working all the diplomatic channels to win backing from Security Council members on a second resolution on Iraq. The resolution, which is co-sponsored by Britain, the United States and Spain, declares Iraq has not disarmed itself of its weapons of mass destruction. The Security Council vote could come as early as next week, and approval could open the way for war. The question is whether it will be approved.
Nine votes within the 15-nation Security Council are needed to approve the resolution, with no vetoes by permanent members of the council. Of the five permanent members, only co-sponsors Britain and the United States have voiced support for the resolution. The other three, France, Russia and China, say they want to extend U.N. arms inspections and are showing no signs of supporting a new resolution on Iraq.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who is in London for talks on Iraq with British officials, told British radio that Russia wants a political solution to the Iraq crisis and could veto a second resolution.
"It is necessary to continue the work of the inspectors and to look for a political solution," Mr. Ivanov said. "At the same time we have possibilities and we are still flexible. Today, to opt for military action when there still are all possibilities to solve it politically with the use of inspectors, we believe would be a mistake." Britain is trying to gain the votes of the six non-permanent members of the Security Council, Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Angola, Cameroon, and Guinea. But these votes also cannot be assured.
Britain has a good chance of winning support from some, but not all, of these countries, says Victor Bulmer-Thomas, head of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. "There is some leverage in the case of Angola, without a doubt, and that is being used," he said. "But there is much less in the case of Cameroon and Guinea where French influence is greater.
"In the case of Chile and Mexico, of course, the United States is in a much stronger position than Britain to bring those two on board," he continued. "Pakistan is an interesting case because clearly Britain does have some influence there but, in all honesty, there is not a great deal that Britain can do that the United States is not already doing."
Mr. Bulmer-Thomas says he expects many of these votes will be secured in the end. He also believes there is a chance China and Russia can be brought around. France, he says, is another question.
"I think the real issue is whether China, Russia or France veto it," he explained. "China and Russia, I think will not. They will abstain if necessary rather than vetoing it. I think the really imponderable, the really problematic issue is whether France would veto the resolution given that they are almost certainly unable to vote for it. And abstaining would look very strange given the strong position France has had."
British officials say that a second resolution must be secured if the credibility of the United Nations is to be maintained. They argue it would provide legal justification by setting a clear process on Iraq, starting with November's Security Council resolution 1441 calling for Baghdad's full and immediate compliance on disarmament and ending with a second resolution condemning Iraq for its failure to comply.
But analysts like Paul Whiteley, a professor of government at the University of Sussex in southern England, say the real reason the British government is pushing so hard for the resolution is that the British public is overwhelmingly against the war. A second resolution, Mr. Whiteley says, would give Prime Minister Tony Blair some protection from his critics at home.
"Now if that passed, I think he would have enough cover from that resolution to say to critics, look, nobody likes war, but this is the U.N. resolution," Mr. Whiteley said. "It makes it absolutely clear that serious consequences follow which means war and so we have to go ahead and do this. If the resolution does not get through, it is going to be very hard to build a coalition."
Mr. Blair's popularity is at the lowest ebb since he came to office six years ago. Last week nearly 200 lawmakers, including 122 from his governing Labor Party, backed a parliamentary motion saying the case for war has not been proven.