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UN: Security Council Prepares to Authorize Tough New Inspection Plan In Iraq

After a final flurry of negotiations, the United Nations Security Council is set to approve with near unanimity today a resolution establishing a rigorous new inspections regime in Iraq. Council members indicated they will approve a resolution drafted by Britain and the United States stressing that Iraq will face "serious consequences" if it does not allow unrestricted inspections by UN experts looking into Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

United Nations, 8 November 2002 (RFE/RL)-- The United Nations Security Council is set to authorize today a tough new inspection program that seeks to pressure Iraq into a full disclosure of any weapons of mass destruction.

More than seven weeks of negotiations among the 15 Security Council members appears to have produced widespread support for a resolution that will be voted on today.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said after a council meeting late yesterday that he expected a positive vote. "My sense is from the meetings we've been having the last few days and the meeting we just had now that there is broad support for the resolution," Negroponte said.

Russia and Syria appeared to be the two final holdouts. Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told reporters after last night's session that he would consult with Moscow about whether the latest revision to the resolution was acceptable. A Russian veto is not expected.

Lavrov said the United States and Britain, the resolution's co-sponsors, had given assurances that the measure addressed Russian concerns about authorizing use of force in the event of Iraqi noncompliance. "We got explanations that neither of the co-sponsors interprets the language as containing automatic use of force, and we would be reporting this to our capitals," Lavrov said.

Syria was denied its request that the voting be postponed until Monday in order to give it time to consult with Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on 10 November. Syria's deputy ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, told reporters his government also raised objections over some of the conditions for inspections. In particular, Mekdad said, the call for Iraq to give a full account of its military and civilian programs in the chemical, biological, and nuclear fields within 30 days of the resolution's adoption was an unrealistic demand. "We said these are very difficult and impossible conditions. If we want to guarantee and assure Iraqi cooperation, we should also offer what's possible," Mekdad said.

Earlier, France had indicated its support of the resolution after the United States and Britain agreed to changes in language that clearly give the Security Council a role in assessing any lack of compliance by Iraq. But U.S. officials say they still retain the right to strike Iraq if it does not cooperate with UN inspectors.

U.S. President George W. Bush told a news conference yesterday that Washington was determined to disarm Iraq and reserved the right to do so militarily if necessary because of previous Iraqi violations of UN resolutions.

But Bush also stressed the importance of verifying Iraqi disarmament through the United Nations. "It took a while, but we've been grinding it out, trying to bring a consensus, trying to bring people together so that we can say to the world the international community has spoken through the Security Council of the United Nations and now, once again, we expect Saddam [Hussein] to disarm," Bush said.

In another change from earlier draft resolutions, the measure reaffirms the commitment of member states to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, as well as Kuwait and neighboring states. It says Iraq is being given a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations with the aim of completing the disarmament process.

China's deputy ambassador, Zhang Yishan, told reporters it was important for the resolution to convey firmness as well as fairness. "In the Chinese position, this message must contain two things. First, Iraq must comply fully and unconditionally with the relevant UN resolutions. Second, the whole issue of Iraq must be solved in a fair and...comprehensive way," Zhang said.

If the council approves the resolution today, Iraq will have seven days to confirm its intention of complying fully with the resolution and another 23 days to make a full declaration of its programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Further, under the proposed timetable, weapons inspectors would have 45 days to resume their work in Iraq. They would be required to report to the Security Council 60 days after the start of their work.