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Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 18:55 GMT
UN back to 'business as usual'
UN Security Council listens to the weapons inspector's report on Monday
The Council returns to the Iraqi issue on Wednesday

It was back to business as usual for the United Nations Security Council ambassadors on Tuesday morning.

CRUCIAL WEEK
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
28 Jan - Bush's State of the Union speech
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
After all the drama and excitement associated with Hans Blix and the presentation of his first formal report on disarmament in Iraq on Monday, the diplomats were occupying themselves with the more mundane matters.

They discussed the crisis in Ivory Coast, the conflict in Liberia, and the "Kimberley Process" on controlling the global trade in conflict diamonds.

Council ambassadors could be forgiven for thinking that their day's work never ends at the moment.

The looming prospect of military conflict in Iraq provides a grim backdrop to the daily grind of addressing all of the world's other matters of international peace and security.

'High school' drama

Iraq has now dominated their attention for almost six months.

UN'S CONCERNS
No proof of destruction of anthrax stocks
300 rocket engines unaccounted for
VX gas not destroyed?
Harassment of inspectors

Click here to see Blix's speech point by point

Last September, US President George W Bush came to New York and cajoled, prodded, and demanded that the Security Council step up a gear and finally deal with the unresolved issue of Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction.

On Monday, despite all of the pressure, there was a certain breeziness to the atmosphere in the Council, as Mr Blix prepared to address the ambassadors.

Shave 40 years off the average age of everyone standing on the floor of the Council chamber, and the gathering would have looked more like an American High School graduation ceremony, awaiting an address from the keynote speaker.

Ambassadors shook hands, slapped each other on the back, and shared jokes, before sitting down to hear from Mr Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, his counterpart from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Key week

This meeting was billed as a turning point in the decision-making process that could lead to military intervention in Iraq.

But the sense among Council members is that they have not yet entered the final steps in what may yet become a diplomatic end game for Iraq.

They may think differently by the end of the week.

Monday's meeting was just the preparatory stage in which Mr Blix served up the basic ingredients to Council members.

They now have to decide to make a real meal out of it and move from diplomacy to military action.

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

Governments of the nations represented on the Security Council are making their own assessment of Iraq's performance.

They will give instructions to their ambassadors for an important round of new consultations on Iraq on Wednesday.

By that time, Council members will also have President Bush's State of the Union address ringing in their ears.

And they all are expecting some clear pointers from the president about where Washington thinks all this diplomatic manoeuvring is going to lead.


Key stories

Analysis

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See also:

28 Jan 03 | Americas
28 Jan 03 | Media reports
28 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Americas
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
19 Nov 02 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
27 Jan 03 | Middle East
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