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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Washington's next diplomatic steps on Iraq
George Bush addresses UN
Bush told the General Assembly action was needed

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is following up President Bush's speech to the UN by holding discussions in New York about a Security Council resolution calling on Iraq to comply with previous UN demands for weapons inspectors to be allowed in.

The immediate issue is whether there is to be one Security Council resolution or two.


By turning to the UN, Mr Bush has disarmed many of his critics

The Americans and British would prefer one, containing both an ultimatum to Iraq and a threat of action if it does not comply. They see that as the quickest and most effective way of putting pressure on Iraq.

The French however have suggested breaking the process into two, with the first resolution laying down what Iraq has to do and the second authorising action if it has refused.

Washington and London fear that getting a second resolution may lead to difficulty and delay, especially if Iraq makes some concessions.

They fear a scenario in which Saddam Hussein allows inspectors back in but then argues about their access.

In such conditions, there might be problems in getting the Security Council to authorise force.

On the spot

There is also the issue of what an ultimatum might contain.

A recent report from a leading Washington think-tank, the Brookings Institution, suggested adding all kinds of conditions beyond open access for inspectors, including the requirement that Iraq allow any Iraqi scientist with information about weapons programmes the freedom to leave for abroad.

US aircraft carrier in the Gulf
The US is building up its forces in the Gulf
In his speech, President Bush referred in the plural to "resolutions", so it might be that France is prevailing and perhaps exacting a price for not using its Security Council veto.

Russia's attitude remains uncertain. Most observers expect that Russia will not block the way - though it, too, might have its price.

An American blind eye to Chechnya and Russian threats to attack Chechnya rebels in Georgia could be part of that.

In the final analysis, China is not expected to block the resolutions.

Reaction from elsewhere indicates some satisfaction with President Bush for going to the United Nations but equally a realisation that the UN is now on the spot.

Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham said it was a challenge to the UN.

Jan Peterson, foreign minister of Norway, which chairs the UN Iraq sanctions committee, said George Bush had "challenged us to (live) up to our responsibilities."

UN gesture

The fact is that by turning to the UN, Mr Bush has disarmed many of his critics.

He has often been accused of being a unilateralist, but in this case he has turned the tables.

To be realistic, he does not expect the UN to be effective.

The United States may eventually feel it has to act alone - but Mr Bush can argue that at least he has made the gesture.

He hinted in his speech that he still sought regime change in Iraq, referring to UN-supervised elections at some stage.

Other governments, though, are choosing to concentrate on the issue in hand.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw told the BBC that the focus now was on the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
President George W Bush
"Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger"
The BBC's Gavin Hewitt reports from New York
"America is on the diplomatic offensive"

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Analysis

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 VOTE RESULTS
Bush's UN speech: Has he got it right?

Yes
 51.44% 

No
 48.56% 

23362 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

11 Sep 02 | Middle East
11 Sep 02 | Americas
12 Sep 02 | Middle East
11 Sep 02 | Middle East
10 Sep 02 | Middle East
13 Sep 02 | Middle East
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