With the threat of war ever closer, opposing sides at the U.N. Security Council blame each other for the collapse of diplomacy in the Iraq crisis. The pro-U.S. camp said a threatened French veto is to blame, while other countries say a lack of support for immediate military action caused the impasse.

The United States and its allies abandoned diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iraqi crisis after it became clear that its new draft resolution on Iraqi disarmament could not pass in the Security Council.

The United States wanted a resolution that would have given Iraq a very short time to disarm or face military action. France led an opposition bloc that was opposed to the immediate use of force and wanted to give Iraq more time to disarm.

After a morning meeting during which neither side was willing to budge from their hardened positions, the United States and its allies said they would not put their resolution to a vote in the Security Council.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said diplomacy was at the end of the road.

"Obviously, the members of the Council who had hoped for a long time that it ought to be possible to disarm Iraq peacefully and had hoped to come up with a common position today (are) frustrated and are worried that they were not able to muster the collective will to find a common basis to move ahead. And obviously we seem to be at the end of the road here," Mr. Annan said.

Ambassadors of council member states put differing spins on the collapse of last-minute diplomatic efforts on Iraq.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said efforts to get a new draft resolution were thwarted by a threatened veto from one of the five permanent members. While he did not explicitly name the country, it was clear he was referring to France.

"We think that the atmosphere and the context of our entire discussion was affected by the fact that one permanent member explicitly stated that it was intent on frustrating the purposes of our draft resolution," Mr. Negroponte said.

While admitting that France would have used its veto if necessary, French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said diplomacy fell apart because a majority of council members oppose using military force at this time.

"What I think everybody knows very well in the Council and I think here in the U.N. is that draft resolution cosponsored by the United States, U.K., and Spain does not get, or did not get support, in the council. The majority of the members of the council consider that it is not justified, it is not legitimate, to authorize the use of force whereas we are doing the job, which is to disarm Iraq by peaceful means," Mr. La Sabliere said.

The United States said a previous resolution, number 1441, which threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" if it did not comply with U.N. disarmament demands, is sufficient legal grounds to invade Iraq.