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UN: Divided Security Council Prepares To Discuss Inspections With Blix

  • Robert McMahon

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is to report to the UN Security Council today on the arrangements he has made with Iraqi officials to resume inspections for weapons of mass destruction. Council action will be needed before the inspections can take place. The United States says it will insist on a tough resolution with "new instructions" for inspectors before they are authorized to go to Iraq.

Washington, 3 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The head of the United Nations monitoring mission for Iraq, Hans Blix, will present today his report to the UN Security Council on his meeting with Iraqi officials this week amid intense council debate over how stringent inspections should be.

Blix concluded talks on 1 October in Vienna concerning the return of weapons inspectors. Iraqi officials stressed the agreement on practical arrangements was based in part on a 1998 memorandum, which was approved by the council, stipulating that eight presidential sites could only be searched under special procedures and said inspections could start in two weeks.

But the United States says any talk of inspections under conditions agreed in Vienna is premature. Washington has started circulating a draft resolution that says Iraq must permit inspections of all sites or face the threat of a military strike.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Blix will need new instructions from the council before inspections can begin and that the United States will work to prevent inspections until tougher procedures are approved. News agencies quoted some nonpermanent council members yesterday as saying a new resolution was not necessary.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked repeatedly by reporters yesterday how the United States could block inspections. Fleischer said Washington would work "through diplomacy and through logic" at the United Nations to make sure any new inspections were legitimate. "I can only assure you that Secretary Powell said what he said last night [1 October] for a reason because the whole purpose of this exercise is to make sure that Saddam Hussein disarms. That's the only reason to send inspectors back to Iraq. There's no purpose in sending inspectors back to Iraq so that they run around, [be] chased, fired at, bugged, and denied [access]. That's not the purpose of why inspectors should go there," Fleischer said.

The draft of the U.S. resolution has so far been presented only to the five permanent members of the Security Council, including Britain, France, China, and Russia. The 10 nonpermanent members were expected to discuss the issue with the full council after the permanent members had reached some agreement on the language of the resolution.

Only Britain has supported the tougher measures proposed by the United States, including the authorization to use force if necessary. Russia and France have signaled some willingness to assent to a resolution that will enable inspectors to monitor arms facilities more thoroughly. But they refuse to support a resolution authorizing force before the inspections actually begin.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the need for a new resolution would be more apparent after Blix's report. "First, we should hold a [UN] Security Council meeting, listen to the Blix report, and then decide whether there is a need for such [a new] resolution or not. If, for the effective work of inspectors, there is a need for additional decisions [by the UN Security Council], we, of course, are ready to consider them," Ivanov said.

France has proposed a two-track approach that calls for an initial resolution outlining inspection requirements. A second resolution, if necessary, would authorize force if Iraq failed to comply.

A draft of the French proposal, obtained by the Associated Press, says "the modalities for inspection will be revised" by the Security Council following consultations with Blix and the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad El-Baradei. The French proposal says "any serious failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations" would result in an immediate Security Council meeting to discuss measures "to ensure full compliance."

After the meeting with Blix, the council is likely to redefine the terms of engagement in a new resolution, said David Phillips, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He said the memorandum on sensitive sites, negotiated with the Iraqis by an earlier weapons inspector, Rolf Ekeus, should have been among the issues clarified by the council before this week's meetings in Vienna. "The Security Council should have redefined the terms for inspections before Hans Blix and his team sat down with Iraqis and talked about technical issues. Without any Security Council resolution, they were essentially put in a position of working off of the old Ekeus memorandum. That didn't work four years ago, and it's not going to work now," Phillips said.

Phillips said the council also needs to agree on a set of disarmament protocols for inspectors if they do find weapons of mass destruction. But first, he said, council members have to try to bridge a fundamental divide. Some believe the problems with Iraq can be solved through talk and inspections, while others are convinced Iraq is known to cheat on inspections and must be held to tighter controls.