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U.S. and Britain to Delay Deadline on Iraq Ultimatum - 2003-03-11

U.S. and British Diplomats say they will put off a UN vote for now on a deadline for Iraq to destroy its alleged weapons of mass destruction or face war. This as both sides look for more support from undecided nations on the UN Security Council.

VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has the latest.

U.S. diplomats say they are delaying the vote after it became clear it would not pass. France and Russia now say they intend to veto the resolution. China, another nation with veto power, has not said how it would vote. Only one veto is needed to defeat the measure.

The first draft of the proposed resolution had called for Saddam Hussein to destroy his alleged weapons of mass destruction by March 17th or face possible military action led by the United States.

As the UN debated in private American and British diplomats worked on a compromise that could win passage. So far there are six nations on the Security Council that are said to be undecided on how they will vote although Pakistan says it might abstain. French diplomats have also been lobbying African Nations on the council to defeat any resolution that would lay the groundwork for war with Iraq.

Reports say a new compromise resolution would include specific benchmarks to test Iraqi compliance and perhaps extend the deadline again. Jeremy Greenstock is the British Ambassador to the UN.

“We are examining whether a test of compliance would be useful thing for the Security Council. There is clearly an interest in that area.”

In Washington Monday White House spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to give details on what a new UN resolution on Iraq might look like.

“It is too soon to say what the final document that will be voted on will include, it’s too soon to say what exactly the date will be.”

President Bush plans to spend another day telephoning more world leaders to get them to put more pressure on undecided members of the Security Council. Meanwhile with support for a new resolution in question British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London warned that talk of vetoing a proposed new UN Security Council resolution on disarming Iraq sends the wrong signal to Saddam Hussein.

For its part Iraq says it is destroying more banned Al Samoud missiles and is working to meet UN demands. But it remains to be seen whether Saddam Hussein will be willing to go along with any new UN resolution that sets a deadline for Iraq to disarm.