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UN: No Signs Of Security Council Compromise On Iraq Disarmament Options

The first meeting of UN Security Council members to consider competing initiatives on Iraq showed no signs of a move toward a common position. The United States and Britain are seeking to persuade council members that Iraq has exhausted its chances to demonstrate cooperation. But France, Russia, and Germany say this can only be proven through a tougher inspection regime. The standoff has prompted some smaller members of the council -- seen as crucial "swing votes" -- to try to bridge the differences.

United Nations, 28 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- As the split persists among key Security Council members, two nonpermanent members, Chile and Mexico, say they are working to break the deadlock over the Iraqi crisis and maintain the legitimacy of the council.

The comments came yesterday after an intense closed-door meeting of the Security Council on the two competing Iraq initiatives presented earlier this week.

Chile's UN ambassador, Gabriel Valdes, said he appealed to the 15-member council to find a common position on Iraq's disarmament. Speaking later to reporters, he accused the five permanent members -- U.S., Russia, China, France, and Britain -- of inflexibility. "This divided council is, in fact, throwing the decision on the shoulders of the elected members, while the permanent members stick to their positions without making efforts to approximate their views," he said.

The council began discussion yesterday on a draft resolution sponsored by the United States, Britain, and Spain signaling that Iraq must face the "serious consequences" threatened in Resolution 1441 for noncompliance with disarmament obligations. A U.S.-led coalition is mounting forces in the Persian Gulf for possible war against Iraq, and the sponsors of the latest resolution want a decision by the council by mid-March.

Council members also considered a paper endorsed by France, Russia, and Germany urging that the Security Council remain committed to the peaceful disarmament of Iraq through intensified inspections.

Speaking today in Beijing, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow will not support any UN resolution that would "directly or indirectly open the way to an armed solution" over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Ivanov said Moscow would use its veto power on the Security Council in order to maintain "international stability," but he did not refer specifically to Iraq.

After more than three hours of inconclusive talks yesterday, the Chilean and Mexican ambassadors said they were working together to try to bridge the differences in the council on how to disarm Iraq. The ambassadors -- whose countries have favored continuing inspections -- said they hoped to use elements of a Canadian compromise proposal to break the impasse.

Canada's proposal, which has not yet been discussed in the council, calls for a timetable for UN inspectors to report on Iraqi cooperation on disarmament, with the final report to come on 28 March. The Security Council would then be asked to vote on 31 March on whether Iraq was complying with its UN obligations.

Chile and Mexico are among six key states on the council facing strong lobbying from U.S. officials to support the resolution. Four states -- the three sponsors, plus Bulgaria -- support the measure, which needs nine votes to pass.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock told reporters that he sought to detail in the meeting how Iraq has defied and deceived monitors, making further inspections futile. "The inspectors cannot, in these circumstances, disarm a resistant Iraq. There is no future in the inspectors unless they have the cooperation of Iraq, and it was obviously necessary with some members of the council to show why that should be so," he said.

Iraq notified UN weapons inspectors late yesterday that it had agreed "in principle" to destroy its Al-Sumud 2 missiles, as ordered by chief inspector Hans Blix. Iraqi compliance with the order is seen as a key test by Security Council members debating Iraq's sincerity. But Blix has also said recently that Iraqi cooperation on substantial issues remains limited.

The ambassadors of France and Germany said a majority of Security Council members continue to voice support for a peaceful resolution to the crisis. French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said war cannot be considered the only option to disarm Iraq at this time. "We do think there is another option -- reinforcing the inspections, giving a very clear mandate on identifying very clearly what are the key remaining disarmament issues and having a very clear timeline for the inspections," he said.

Security Council members are to receive a quarterly report on the status of weapons inspections from Blix by the weekend. But they could not agree yesterday on whether Blix should make his next oral report to the Security Council on 6 or 7 March.