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Saturday, 19 October, 2002, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
French scrutiny delays Iraq debate
US jet
The US says it is prepared to act without the UN
French diplomats are scrutinising a crucial draft United Nations resolution on Iraq to see if they can reach an agreement with the United States.

The five permanent members of the Security Council had been due to debate the draft resolution on Friday, but the meeting is now unlikely to happen before next week.

There can be no automatic intervention

Jacques Chirac
Disagreement is believed to centre upon whether the wording threatens an automatic attack on Iraq in the event of weapons inspectors finding violations of UN rulings and whether such an attack would have to be debated by the Security Council first.

France has led calls in the UN Security Council to avoid potential military attacks by the US and Britain without a UN mandate.

French President Jacques Chirac has denied any conflict with the US but said that his country was opposed to automatic military action.

Jacques Chirac (R) with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade
Chirac is on a visit to Beirut for a summit of Francophone nations
"France's position has been clearly expressed by its saying: No, there can be no automatic intervention," he said in a French radio interview.

"There is no conflict between the French argument and the American argument or anything of that nature. There's simply a French affirmation of what it believes to be international law and common sense."

France led UN states opposed to the original wording of the US draft resolution which approved the use of "all necessary means" against Iraq in the event of violations.

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

It is now questioning the phrase "serious consequences" in America's revised draft.

The US administration believes that any Iraqi interference with the work of weapons inspectors would be a breach of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire conditions and it has US congressional backing to use force.

Final say

The BBC's World Affairs correspondent, Mark Doyle, reports from New York that America and Britain believe any sign of a split with their fellow UN Security Council permanent members - France, Russia and China - would send a dangerous signal to Saddam Hussein.

The Americans, supported by Britain, say Saddam Hussein has had enough chances.

They want a single, tough UN resolution that will give them a quick UN mandate to hit Iraq if the weapons inspectors find something amiss.

Chirac is just... trying to get reconstruction contracts in Iraq

Simon, UK

France also insists on further UN Security Council deliberations in the event of violations as it believes the UN should have the final say.

However, the US believes that by that stage it would already have a mandate for war.

Russia has indicated that it might agree to the use of military force against Iraq in the event of violations provided the action was approved by the Security Council.

But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the BBC that the only aim of the draft UN resolution should be the speedy return of weapons inspectors.

UN Security Council
The wrangling continues at the Security Council

China has also stated that the priority should be in getting Un inspectors back into Iraq to monitor its disarmament.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has warned that President George W Bush will act in America's best interests:

"The United States does not need any additional authority, even now, if we felt it was necessary to take action to defend ourselves."

'Unnecessary resolution'

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz insisted on Friday that there was no need for a new UN Security Council resolution and accused weapons inspectors of breaking existing rules before their withdrawal from Iraq in 1998.

"If they had complied with these rules, they would have ended their mandate long time ago," he said in Baghdad.

Mr Aziz also commended France for its "just, legal and neutral position".

The BBC's Peter Biles
"At the UN the diplomatic waiting game goes on"
Director of the French Centre, Guillaume Parmentier
"There are extraordinary difficulties within the US administration"

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See also:

20 Oct 02 | Politics
18 Oct 02 | Middle East
16 Oct 02 | Europe
11 Oct 02 | Middle East
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