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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Analysis: Iraq - Diplomatic endgame nears
The Security Council in New York
Resolutions on Iraq - focus of intense debate

President Bush is moving towards the diplomatic endgame over Iraq - pressing for Congressional support for a possible invasion and for a Security Council decision on an ultimatum and threat to Saddam Hussein.

But he is moving more quickly on the domestic front than internationally.

He is about to get support from both House of Congress and is meeting with less success in the Security Council.

The French and Russians are still holding out against a single Security Council resolution in which there would be a threat of action if conditions were not met.

France is proposing that there should be two resolutions -- one to lay down the conditions and a second to authorise force if Iraq does not comply.

Phone call

A phone call between President Bush and the French President Jaques Chirac on Wednesday failed to break the deadlock.

And the British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be discussing the resolution with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia is hinting that it might agree to a new and stronger resolution but not that it will support the use of force, at this stage at least.


Mr Bush...changed the definition of "regime change" from a change of regime to a change by the regime

George Bush is now committed to allowing the UN role play out one way or another even if he probably thinks that all ways lead to war.

But in an important passage in his speech to the American people on Monday night he did hold the door to peace open, saying that the "regime change" he is seeking in Iraq might be achieved if Saddam Hussein complies.

"The Iraqi regime has an opportunity to avoid conflict. Taking these steps would also change the nature of the Iraqi regime itself," the president said.

CIA surprise

Mr Bush thereby changed the definition of "regime change" from a change of regime to a change by the regime.

Meanwhile, there are other hiccups along the way to the diplomatic endgame.

The CIA Director George Tenet has popped up to say that, if left alone, Saddam Hussein is unlikely to launch an attack on anyone.


Unless we have people inside the Iraqi programme who are willing to tell us what they have, it is easy for the Iraqi regime to hide its capabilities from us

Donald Rumsfeld
His comments somewhat undermine the Bush administration's dire warnings and make selling the policy that much harder.

In his speech, Mr Bush had conjured up the image of a mushroom cloud if nothing was done. .

Basic requirements

Mr Bush will insist on certain basic requirements in any UN resolution. He laid out three of them in his Cincinnati address:

  • a declaration by Iraq on what weapons it is developing
  • free and unfettered access by inspectors to all sites
  • ability of the inspectors to take witnesses and their families abroad

This last condition was stressed by the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in his evidence to the House Armed Service Committee on 18 September.

"Unless we have people inside the Iraqi programme who are willing to tell us what they have, it is easy for the Iraqi regime to hide its capabilities from us," said Mr Rumsfeld.

And it is not all plain sailing in Congress either, though the issue has moved in Goerge Bush's favour.

A senior Senator, Democrat Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who is given to flourishing a copy of the US Constitution in any argument big or small, has said that Congress is being "stampeded" into a decision.

Enforce all resolutions

But other Democratic Senators are swinging behind the President and even Senator Byrd is accepting defeat.

"The wheels have been greased", he commented.

An Iraqi woman brandishes a rifle during a demonstration in support of Saddam Hussein
Will Iraq abide by a UN resolution?
In the House version, Mr Bush would be authorised to use military force to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to "enforce all relevant Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

A Senate version might make the use of force more clearly dependent on a failure by Iraq to comply with the Security Council conditions.

Either way, the final resolution will probably be enough to allow the President the freedom to go to war if Iraq, in his assessment, fails to carry out the UN instructions.

And, frankly, the administration does not think that Saddam Hussein will comply.


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26 Sep 02 | Americas
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