Thursday, Mar 06, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
By the same token, it has no assurances from key permanent members such as France, Russia and China that they would not cast their vetoes or abstain.
The question in New York and elsewhere is how Washington will proceed and the official response is that it will be seeking a vote on the resolution "soon after" the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, reports to the Council this Friday.
One assessment is that the United States will ask for a vote by the middle of next week March 13 is the most mentioned date as that would be exactly six months after the President, George W. Bush, went to the United Nations asking for the full and complete disarmament of Iraq.
Diplomats and analysts are convinced that with or without nine votes, the U.S. will press ahead. In fact, one perception is that by the middle of next week if the U.S. is not able to get votes in the Security Council, it might not push for a formal vote. But the administration will still proceed with its plans for a military showdown with Iraq.
Politically, Mr. Bush has pushed himself so much that he cannot really backtrack now and still come out unscathed. At the very best, Mr. Bush may be willing to wait for a few weeks, but certainly will not allow this issue of Iraq to drag on for months.
In fact, an argument has been made that Mr. Bush cannot enter the 2004 re-election arena with the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein still in power. At the U.N., some non-permanent members like Chile are quite receptive to an idea put forth by Canada that sets a series of benchmarks that the Iraqis would have to comply with before the end of the month when the Council finally decides what to do. Unlike the French proposal that has a July 1 deadline, Canada has a March 31 cut-off date. The Canadian idea is yet to emerge as a full document.
But the U.S. was one of the first to dismiss Ottawa's proposal. U.S. officials are saying that they are willing and open for talks about the resolution, which has been introduced, but not on the substantive parts of it. But many members of the Council in New York and their capitals still have an ear for any compromise proposal that delays or puts off military action against Iraq. China, a permanent member with veto power, has been pretty straightforward in saying that war can and should be avoided; at the same time, has been making the point that Iraq "should implement" all U.N. resolutions and that it "should not" possess weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush administration has been intensely lobbying Beijing on Iraq, but the prime focus is on at least six non-permanent members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan. The lobbying efforts will go on till the very end.
Meanwhile, at a military level, the question is being posed if the U.S. can start any meaningful and substantial military campaign against Iraq without the full cooperation of Turkey. The administration, according to reports, is torn between two positions those calling on war planners to wait until such time as Turkey is fully on board; and others who are confident that the military operation could be pulled off with or without the participation of Turkey.
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