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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 04:18 GMT 05:18 UK
Diplomacy 'could resolve Iraq crisis'
Saddam Hussein on Iraqi television at his swearing-in ceremony
Saddam: Could avoid military action if complies with UN
US President George W Bush has said he believes that Iraq can be disarmed peacefully and that he is willing to give diplomacy one more try.

His comments - as the US circulated a new draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Iraqi disarmament - also appeared to suggest that Saddam Hussein might be allowed to stay in power if he complied with the UN.

"The stated policy of our government, the previous administration and this administration, is regime change, because we don't believe he is going to change," Mr Bush said following talks with Nato Secretary General George Robertson.

We're... making it clear that it's time to wrap this up

Richard Boucher, US State Dept

"However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the UN, the conditions that I've described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed."

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Washington says that Mr Bush's remarks sound like a dramatic shift in US policy, however in practice it is more likely to be a tactical change of emphasis designed to reassure other members of the Security Council while still pursuing a tough new resolution on Iraq.

In another development, chief UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix is due in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with senior officials on resuming weapons inspections.

Crisis talks

Details of the new draft resolution have not yet been released.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the revised text took into account other countries' concerns, but he said that the resolution still made clear to Iraq that force would be used if it failed to comply with UN arms inspectors.

President George W Bush
Bush: Doesn't believe Saddam will change

An earlier proposal ran into difficulties after Russia, France and China objected to US and British demands that a new text include an explicit authorisation for the use of force.

As the debate continued, the American Under-Secretary of State for arms control, John Bolton, met Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow for talks on the Iraq crisis.

But Mr Boucher said the US was "making it clear that it's time to wrap this up and would like to see this finished".

He signalled that America was unlikely to compromise any further to meet the concerns of the other Security Council members.

UN weapons inspectors destroying sarin gas rockets in Iraq
Chirac said UN weapons inspectors must be allowed to do their job
France has yet to give an official response to the draft resolution, however France's UN ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, said on Monday that there did not appear to be any hopes for a quick resolution.

And on Sunday, French President Jacques Chirac said he would never support military action against Iraq unless UN weapons inspectors had first been given the opportunity to resume their work.

Bush-Putin meeting

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohamed al-Baradei, told the BBC he was confident Iraq would agree to allow inspectors to visit any site they choose when they return to Baghdad.

"I think the understanding that Iraq now has is that we will not leave any stones unturned," he said.

He said successful weapons inspections relied on:

  • Immediate and unfettered access for inspectors

  • Accurate information on which sites to visit

  • The unanimous support of the UN Security Council.

    Mr Bush and Russia's President Putin are also expected to discuss Iraq when they meet on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic summit in Mexico later this week.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Paul Adams
    "There is still a debate going on at the United Nations"
    A senior intelligence official at the Pentagon gives
    a rare interview to the BBC
    IAEA director Mohamed El Baradei
    "We are there to deter and detect"

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    See also:

    22 Oct 02 | Middle East
    21 Oct 02 | Americas
    18 Oct 02 | Middle East
    21 Oct 02 | Europe
    18 Oct 02 | Middle East
    20 Oct 02 | Middle East
    16 Oct 02 | Europe
    11 Oct 02 | Middle East
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