Wednesday, Feb 26, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
On Monday, Britain introduced a one-page resolution signed by the United States and Spain, calling on the Council to say that Iraq "has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it" by resolution 1441 and one that was adopted unanimously on November 8, 2002. While the formal draft language does not formally call on the Council to authorise the use of force, adopting the new resolution would invariably mean that.
The counter-proposal or memorandum has been put forth by France, Russia and Germany, which have opposed military action, and are calling for a peaceful disarmament of Iraq through the strengthening of the weapons inspections. The new process, if approved, will see the inspections regime running past July 1.
"The time has not come to discuss a military option," the top envoy of France said. China is not an official sponsor of this plan but is supporting this idea. But diplomats believe that if push comes to shove at the Council on the U.S.- backed resolution, Beijing will abstain instead of casting its veto. Iraq as a foreign policy issue is not something that China would want Sino-American relations to be defined with. Further, Beijing will want other veto-wielding members such as France and Russia to stick their necks out as they have been more vociferous in their stance against military action.
The U.S. has four votes in the 15-member Council that would include Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. For a resolution to pass, it requires nine votes and no permanent member casting a veto. Five members Russia, France, Germany, China and Syria are against any use of force; and there are six non-permanent members who are said to be "fence sitters". These countries are Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan. And the focus of Washington is on these six and the strategy of winning support is through a variety of means including high profile lobbying and economic incentives.
The members of the Security Council are looking to their respective capitals for guidance on how to go about with a second closed door session set for Thursday.
In pressing for a second resolution, the administration here has hinted that the President, George W. Bush, may be inclined to wait until after the March 7 report of the top weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and then push for a vote.
According to present indications, the week of March 7 to March 15 will be a crucial determining period following which Mr. Bush could go the military route, alone if necessary. "It's time to deal with this problem," argued the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, at the White House going on to brush aside the French proposal that gives inspections another four months to run its course.
Senior officials such as Dr. Rice remain sceptical that the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, will comply with the latest set of demands of Dr. Blix on the dismantling and destruction of the Al Samoud-2 missiles.
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