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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 06:39 GMT
Council unease over Iraq resolution
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix
Hans Blix plans to be in Iraq in two weeks time
France and Russia say they are concerned about what they say are ambiguities in the latest draft United Nations resolution on hunting down Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Despite their unease, the BBC has learned from diplomatic sources that chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to travel to Iraq in less than two weeks and is planning to start his first inspection almost straight away.

We are not there yet

Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov
That might mean UN inspectors demanding immediate access to one of Iraq's suspected weapons sites as a test of their good faith.

The BBC's Jon Leyne at the United Nations says the rapid timetable is a clear indication of American impatience after the long delay in getting this new resolution.

The United States is hoping to have its text, now in its third version, finally adopted by the UN Security Council on Friday.

However, even as the US declared a breakthrough was near when talks resumed on Wednesday, French President Jacques Chirac phoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and the two agreed that "ambiguities" in the draft must be resolved.

UN weapons inspectors destroying sarin gas rockets in Iraq
Iraq says a new resolution is unnecessary
The two leaders are opposed to anything in the eventual resolution which might be understood as justifying the automatic use of force against Iraq if it failed to abide.

The leaders accepted that the new draft showed "many improvements" on its predecessors, Mr Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna said.

But the new draft, which offers Iraq a "final opportunity" to show it is complying with its disarmament obligations, does not respect French demands that a second, separate UN resolution be agreed to authorise force against Iraq if it does not co-operate with inspections.

"We are not there yet," said Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov.

American officials have, nonetheless, been predicting the success of their latest draft, which is the fruit of eight weeks' negotiation at the UN.

Analysts say there is a real risk that a frustrated US may decides to side-step the UN if its latest resolution fails.

Softer tone

The language of the draft is far less belligerent than previous versions, but a sentence warning of "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to do as it is told 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 - have the power to veto a resolution, support is also 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.

The BBC's David Shukman
"The inspectors could be back in Iraq within weeks"
The BBC's David Bamford
"The tone has changed on the resolution"

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