Paris, 23 October 2002 (RFE/RL) -- France and Russia say they are far from agreeing to a U.S.-sponsored UN Security Council resolution to disarm Iraq.
Speaking in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said a revised draft U.S. resolution does not "at all meet [the Russian] criteria." French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said there is "much work to do" before an agreement is reached.
Russia and France are said to both be concerned that the U.S. resolution could be used by Washington to launch a military attack on Iraq. France, supported by Russia and China, wants to give Iraq another chance to comply with UN demands that it disarm.
France had been critical of an earlier draft U.S. resolution that threatened the use of force against Iraq if it did not comply with UN inspections. French President Jacques Chirac said, "We are totally hostile to any United Nations resolution that would indicate automatic military intervention."
Chirac said yesterday that he does not believe the debate has harmed relations with the United States. But he also said relations are not based on the idea "that the United States is always right."
A revised U.S. draft resolution is reported not to contain explicit authorization for war if Iraq does not comply, but only to threaten "serious consequences." The language is still raising objections. John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said: "We've put on the table the text of a resolution which we believe, if Iraq were to cooperate, could achieve this purpose. And we're now engaged in a very intense dialogue with the other permanent members of the Security Council to see if we can forge some kind of consensus on this. Every country brings its own perspective and own point of view to these issues and these things have to be thrashed out and discussed."
France is a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, along with China, Britain, Russia, and the United States. France has favored a two-resolution approach. The first resolution would demand the return of weapons inspectors, while the second would address the use of force only if Iraq fails to comply.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said yesterday in Luxembourg that further compromise from Washington is needed. She said the French goal is the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq to ensure disarmament "and not regime change in Iraq. It is in this context that we are negotiating this resolution."
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix arrived in Moscow yesterday and said he thinks Iraq can avoid war by cooperating with inspectors and persuading the world it does not have weapons of mass destruction. He said debate is ongoing in the Security Council about possible sanctions against Iraq: "I certainly don't exclude that [UN Security Council members] will come to some agreement in the council. We have seen very heated debates in the media, particularly about the sanction clause, up to the end of last week, and that clause has been changed, so there is a new situation."
Christian Malard is a senior foreign analyst for France 3 Television. Malard believes the French objections to the resolution have been necessary to keep the power of the United States in check and to preserve international law. "Chirac wants to have a clear, logical, coherent approach, asking for a two-step resolution saying, 'Let's give a last chance to Saddam Hussein to show us whether he is serious or not in having UN inspectors back in Iraq.' If he is not serious, the UN will have to decide what step to take, what resolution they should adopt in the future. And if at that time we have to go to war with Saddam Hussein, then we will go, and it will be clear that the French won't oppose that. They want the UN to have its legitimacy."
Malard says a summit of French-speaking nations held in Beirut this past weekend couldn't have come at a better time. He says leaders at the summit backed the French position, reinforcing Paris' standing in the international community.
"After our trip to the Middle East, in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, it is clear [Chirac] has the backing of all the leaders in the region. And today it is clear that the United States, George W. Bush, and his administration are realizing that it's not going to be that easy. We expect by the end of the week to have a resolution which is sort of a compromise. As Chirac told us during this trip in private, 'I'm not going to fight with the United States, but let's be logical together.'"
Talks over the final wording of the draft resolution are expected to continue today in New York.