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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 19:25 GMT
US signals Iraq breakthrough is near
UN Security Council in session
UN members will discuss the latest US plan of action
US officials are signalling that a deal has been reached with France and Russia to overcome their objections to a new resolution against Iraq.

Senior diplomats are discussing the latest resolution drafted by the United States at a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council.

Iraq... will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations

Draft US resolution
The BBC's Middle East analyst, Roger Hardy, says, barring last-minute snags US President George W Bush could have new UN backing - along with his party's election successes - to give him added momentum in his desire to see regime change in Iraq.

Both France and Russia have welcomed changes in the new draft - but with reservations.

French President Jaques Chirac has called for the removal of certain "ambiguities" to make sure there would be no automatic use of force against Iraq if it breaks the terms of the resolution, his spokeswoman said.

UN weapons inspectors destroying sarin gas rockets in Iraq
Iraq says UN inspectors can return under the terms of existing conditions

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said earlier there were still differences with the US and that it was "vital that the new resolution contain no automatic mechanism for using force".

The latest, third, draft resolution offers Iraq a "final opportunity" to show it is complying with its disarmament obligations.

But the Americans have not acceded to French demands that a second UN resolution was necessary before force could be used should Iraq not comply.

Reports say there could be a vote on Friday.

Softer tone

The BBC's David Bamford at the UN says the language of the draft is far less belligerent, but there is no guarantee it will be passed.

The draft resolution gives Iraq one last chance to comply with UN resolutions.

A sentence warning of "serious consequences" if it fails to do so is tucked away at the end of the document.

While the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, the UK, France, China and Russia - may veto a resolution, support is needed from the other members to get the nine votes necessary to adopt a resolution.

Some of the non-permanent members may want to add their own touches to the draft before agreeing to it.

Britain has urged the US to seek the multilateral backing that a UN resolution would offer for a military campaign against President Saddam Hussein.

Some potential allies for any US-led military campaign have said they will only give their support - and open their air bases - if there is UN approval for action.

'Necessary authority'

Jim Kolbe, a senior Republican politician briefed by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, told the BBC that an agreement had been reached.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
Mr Armitage said the US was prepared to act alone
"The resolution is not everything we had wanted," he told Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday.

"But it gives us what we believe is the necessary authority to go ahead and work to enforce previous resolutions of the United Nations."

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the BBC he was "pretty optimistic" that agreement could be reached in the Security Council, but he stressed that the US thought action was necessary.

He told Today: "Our view is that every day lost - and we've lost over a decade with Saddam Hussein and the question of disarmament - is a day closer to catastrophe."

Mr Armitage alleged the Iraqi leader would either use weapons of mass destruction or give them to someone else to use.

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See also:

04 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | In Depth
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