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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
China urges political solution on Iraq
Iraqi's read newspapers in Baghdad
Iraq says it is ready to respect current UN resolutions
China has called for a political solution to the Iraq crisis, saying that the United Nations should focus on the swift return of weapons inspectors and not on military action.


The harder the international community is at the moment, the clearer the message we send, the greater the likelihood there is of avoiding conflict

Tony Blair
The head of the UN inspectors, Hans Blix, is due to brief Security Council members on Thursday on the agreement he has reached with Iraq for his team to return to work there.

But just hours ahead of this meeting, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has restated his support for Washington's position that the inspectors should not return to Iraq until a new, tougher UN resolution has been passed by the Security Council.

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says the Chinese and British statements crystallise the differences among the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, UK, China, Russia and France.

China is unlikely to block any US and British-sponsored resolution, says the BBC's Beijing correspondent, Rupert Wingfield Hayes.


One of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces
Iraq's presidential palaces are a key sticking point
US draft resolution for UN
  • A UN member state can use "all necessary means" should Baghdad not co-operate with inspectors
  • Any permanent member of the Security Council can join an inspection mission and recommend sites to be inspected
  • Inspectors can declare no-fly and no-drive exclusion zones anywhere in Iraq
  • Access to all sites including presidential palaces


  • But it may support an alternative motion, proposed by France, delaying any threat of military action until the UN weapons inspectors have completed their task or been prevented from doing so.

    A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday: "The top priority at this moment is to let UN weapon inspectors return to Iraq as soon as possible and start work smoothly.

    "Relevant actions of the Security Council should take this as the aim and be conducive to promoting a political resolution to the Iraqi issue."

    The statement puts China firmly on the side of France and Russia in the UN Security Council debate, and in opposition to the United States and Britain.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said on Thursday that Moscow opposed any mention in the draft resolution of the automatic use of force should Iraq fail to comply completely with weapons inspectors.

    'Clear message'

    Speaking to the BBC, Mr Blair said the current weapons inspections regime had not been enough to get the job done.

    "The harder the international community is at the moment, the clearer the message we send, the greater the likelihood there is of avoiding conflict," he said.

    Open in new window : Who backs war?
    Where key nations stand on Iraq

    Mr Blair insisted that toppling Saddam Hussein was not his aim, but said such a result would be "fantastic... not least for the Iraqi people".

    Instead, he said that the aim was to disarm the Iraqi leader of his weapons of mass destruction.

    Iraqi rebuttal

    Eight days after Mr Blair issued his dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has delivered its detailed technical rebuttal.

    It said Baghdad no longer had the capacity to make chemical or biological agents, because the specialised equipment needed was not available to do it.

    It also denied it had any missiles with a range longer than 150 kilometres.

    On Wednesday, US President George W Bush received political backing over his Iraq policy, with the House of Representatives agreeing a deal that could pave the way for the use of force against Baghdad. The Senate will now discuss the issue.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Jon Leyne
    "At home the President is riding high - it's the rest of the world that's proving more difficult"

    Key stories

    Analysis

    CLICKABLE GUIDE

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     VOTE RESULTS
    Should the weapons inspectors go into Iraq now?

    Yes
     79.51% 

    No
     20.49% 

    61425 Votes Cast

    Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

    See also:

    03 Oct 02 | Middle East
    03 Oct 02 | Politics
    02 Oct 02 | Europe
    03 Oct 02 | Middle East
    02 Oct 02 | Americas
    02 Oct 02 | Middle East
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