U.N. weapons inspectors say Iraq is being somewhat more cooperative with U.N. disarmament efforts. But the United States is not convinced of Iraq's intentions, and is looking for a new Security Council resolution on using military force against Iraq. The U.S. will have a hard time getting an endorsement from a deeply divided Security Council.
Britain, backed by the United States, circulated a new U.N. Security Council resolution Friday that would give Iraq until March 17 to fully comply with U.N. disarmament efforts. But France again threatened to block any new resolution that would pave the way for a U.S.-led military action against Iraq.
The resolution was being pored over by diplomats on the edges of a crucial Security Council meeting on Iraq. Underscoring the importance of the meeting, five of the nine security council members sent their foreign ministers to attend.
Chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei Friday gave the council what might be termed a mixed report on Iraqi cooperation with U.N. disarmament efforts.
On the one hand, they said Iraq has taken significant steps towards disarmament, and praised what they said was an increasing level of cooperation with inspectors. But they could not attest that Iraq was fully disarming as demanded by the United Nations.
Following the inspectors' report, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell derided Iraq's behavior, calling it a "catalogue of non-cooperation."
"What's wrong is that there's a fundamental difference of opinion as to what Iraq is doing," he said. "And I think a number of us tried to make the case today that Iraq is still not fully complying, unconditionally complying, immediately complying."
Mr. Powell said the United Nations' credibility could suffer if it does not back the U.S. call to action. "It seems to me the U.N. is damaged when there are members who do not want to stand up to the requirements of the resolution and take the action that was clearly intended in the absence of Iraqi compliance," he said.
But at least four council members, France, China, Russia, and Germany, want to give inspections more time to work. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France might use its veto power as a permanent Security Council member to block any new resolution. "We have said that we will take full responsibility, that we will not accept a resolution that will lead to war," he said.
A vote on the resolution is expected sometime next week.