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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Analysis: UN decision time nears
Russia's UN ambassador Sergei Lavrov
Russia's UN team remains opposed to the US-UK plans
BBC News Online's Paul Reynolds

The United States, frustrated by the failure of negotiations so far, is trying to bring the issue of a new Security Council resolution on Iraq to a head.

By placing before the whole council a new draft, it is challenging its main opponents - Russia and France - either to compromise further or use their vetoes.

A vote now looks likely next week.

It will then become clear whether there is to be a united Security Council approach to Iraq - or whether the United States, supported by Britain, will take unilateral action.

Grave consequences

If the US and UK break away, the consequences for the United Nations would be grave.

The Americans would increasingly ignore the UN in future and President George W Bush's critics would attack him for doing so.

That is why so much time and effort has been put into trying to agree on a joint position.

Diplomats say that both sides have made efforts to compromise.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said on Wednesday that the talks had been "painstaking but constructive".

The key problem has been how to square the American and British position with that of France and Russia.

The US and Britain say there must be a threat of action - if necessary by member states by themselves - while the French and Russians say that only the council itself can authorise a war and then only after inspections have been given time to work.

The US and UK want to retain freedom of action if the council fails to agree.

Hidden triggers

France and Russia do not want any "hidden triggers".

In its draft, Washington has toned down some of the conditions.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Mr Straw says progress - if slow - is being made among Security Council members

It drops the threat that "all necessary means" (that means war) would be used if Iraq failed in its obligations.

Instead it talks about "serious consequences".

It has dropped a proposal that an armed force provided by the UN or even a member state accompany inspectors.

The draft resolution has the following key points:

  • Iraq would have to accept a new resolution within seven days

  • Within 30 days, Iraq would have to declare all weapons of mass destruction programmes and materials with dual use.

  • Inspectors would be back at work within 45 days of the resolution being adopted

  • The inspectors would report to the Security Council within 60 days of starting work

  • Inspectors would have unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access

  • They could set up no-fly and no-drive zones around inspection sites.

  • Inspectors would be able to take Iraqi informants and their families out of the country

  • Iraq would be declared in "material breach" of previous resolutions and breaking this one would be a further breach

  • The Security Council's previous warning of "serious consequences" is recalled

  • If there is a failure by Iraq, the council would meet immediately to consider the need for compliance

Critics of the United States argue that such conditions are designed to fail, clearing the way for action.

But there is still a chance, just a chance, that war can be averted.

The resolution could be the "golden bridge" across which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could safely pass.

President Bush has now joined his Secretary of State Colin Powell in redefining Washington's declared aim of "regime change" in Iraq.

From meaning a change of the regime, it has come to mean a change by the regime.

War would be inevitable, however, if Saddam Hussein did not fully comply.

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See also:

23 Oct 02 | Americas
22 Oct 02 | Middle East
21 Oct 02 | Europe
20 Oct 02 | Middle East
18 Oct 02 | Middle East
23 Oct 02 | Middle East
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