Thursday, Mar 06, 2003
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By Vaiju Naravane
The German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer's decision to join Mr. Ivanov of Russia and Mr. de Villepin of France has been described as "unexpected and sudden''. Mr. Ivanov came to Paris from Britain where he reiterated Russia's continued hostility to a second resolution on Iraq.
France yesterday further increased its pressure on the Security Council and angered the United States and Britain by insisting that Mr. Blix's report be heard at a ministerial level and in public. The presentation of the report was to be followed by informal consultations among Council members. Now those plans have gone awry because Mr. de Villepin said he would attend the meeting, obliging the Council to change the format of the meeting.
France, Germany and Russia have circulated a counter proposal they describe as a `Memorandum' that calls for an itemised listing of the inspectors' priorities with a checklist of targets to be reached. The Memorandum also calls on the Security Council to give the inspectors a four-month delay to achieve these goals.
The U.S. and British diplomats reacting angrily to the French move said it was aimed at increasing opposition to a draft resolution tabled by Britain, Spain and the U.S. urging the Council to declare Iraq's failure to comply with resolution 1441, thus opening up the way for war. The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, will attend the meeting, albeit reluctantly. Mr. Powell has been repeatedly upstaged in Council discussions by Mr. de Villepin, a passionate and effective orator who has consistently argued against war. Mr. Powell told French television that he was "increasingly optimistic that if it comes to a vote, we will be able to make a case that will persuade most of the members of the Security Council to vote for the Resolution''.
Russia has said it does not rule out a "use of its veto.'' We cannot but be concerned by plans to force democracy onto whole people. Not only does this contradict the U.N. Charter, but will have heavy consequences,'' Mr. Ivanov said. Attempts to force Arab states in a particular direction will only help extremists, he added.
Today France, Germany and Russia will look at ways to persuade the "Middle Six'' Council members, whose vote, it is felt could swing either way. The six include Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan. Syria, like Germany has declared its opposition to war and a second resolution. Bulgaria and Spain, also non-permanent members have declared their support for it.
Washington has been actively canvassing the "Middle Six'' countries and there have been reports of very substantial inducements being offered.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, a strong supporter of the U.S.-led anti-Saddam coalition made veiled threats to Mexico and Chile, both Spanish-speaking Latin American nations saying he would not wish to delay free trade agreements with them. Angola has been promised food aid and help to develop its petroleum industry.
Last month, in Paris the three African non-permanent members of the Security Council signed a communiqué opposing war against Iraq during the Franco African summit. But Guinea, a former French colony with a troubled post-colonial relationship with France could be tempted by the U.S. sweeteners, as could Angola and Cameroon. Washington has also attempted to soften up the Russian stand by placing three Chechen militant separatist organisations on its terrorist list, a long-standing Russian demand.
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