The Bush administration is stepping up consultations with U.N. Security Council members to gain support for a resolution demanding that Iraq give up weapons of mass destruction, or face the prospect of military action. U.S. diplomats say they expect a draft resolution to be presented to the council by Wednesday.
Permanent Security Council members Russia, China and France have yet to endorse the drive for a resolution led by the United States and Britain.
But officials here say Secretary of State Colin Powell is encouraged by what he had heard in his own diplomatic soundings, and a weekend trip to Paris and Moscow by the State Department's third-ranking official, Marc Grossman.
Mr. Powell followed-up the Grossman mission with telephone calls since Sunday to his counterparts from Russia, France, the European Union and key Arab States seeking to build support for the Iraq initiative.
Though its terms have not been made public, the U.S.-British document is understood to give Iraq seven days to accept terms for the re-entry of U.N. weapons inspectors and set a 30-day deadline for Iraq to declare the extent of its weapons of mass destruction programs.
It is also reported to call for a protection force for U.N. inspectors, and to say that "all necessary means" would be employed against Iraq as punishment for non-compliance.
At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said inspectors must have unrestricted access to suspect locations and that Iraqi officials are deluding themselves if they think that sites like Saddam Hussein's palaces can be kept off-limits.
"We need to be able to go anywhere. We need to make sure that this is not a continuing pattern of deceit," he said. "I would have to say that given what Iraq has been saying over the weekend...at some points, they talk about unfettered access...and at other points they're rejecting in advance any resolution that would do that. So I think it's quite clear that Iraqi officials still don't understand. They just don't get it."
Mr. Boucher said the administration believes strongly that a single resolution that includes deadlines for Iraq and the implicit threat of force is the best way forward. However, an official to who spoke to reporters here indicated there was some U.S. flexibility on the issue.
France is reported to be holding out for a process that would require two resolutions before military action. The first would warn Iraq that the council would consider any measure to ensure its compliance with disarmament demands. That would be followed, if necessary, by a second measure giving a "green light" for the use of force.
France or any of the other permanent Security Council members can use a veto block a draft resolution. While Russia initially opposed a new Iraq resolution, officials here say they're hopeful Moscow can be persuaded to support something close to the language sought by the United States and Britain. China has taken a low-profile on the issue this far and, it's believed here, might abstain in a crucial vote.