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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 15:27 GMT
Signs of Iraqi compromise appear
UN Security Council
The Security Council is still deeply divided on Iraq
The first signs are appearing of a compromise on a new Security Council resolution on Iraq.

Under a deal being discussed between the two main protagonists - the United States and France - a first resolution would set down tough new conditions that Iraq would have to meet.

Iraqi soldiers
Iraq says it will ignore any new resolution

If Iraq then obstructs weapons inspections, the US has conceded the principle of consulting the Security Council again before taking military action.

But the Americans still do not accept the need for a second UN resolution before going to war.

The United States would take part in any second debate - but would not necessarily be bound by it.

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says this would allow Washington to preserve its claimed right to take unilateral action.

Intensive talks

The possible compromise follows weeks of intense negotiations between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin.

It would allow France to argue that it had secured the right of the Security Council to take a vote, even if it was ignored by the United States.

Mr Powell told the Financial Times this week: "We essentially believe we have accommodated those who wanted an opportunity to decide this."

He also said: "They now have the opportunity to decide or not to decide... to pass a second resolution... and we will be part of that debate."

UK optimistic

The negotiations have apparently been sufficiently constructive to allow UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to tell the BBC on Wednesday that there could be a solution.

Hans Blix
Chief UN inspector Blix wants a tough resolution

"I know that the progress has been slow, for sure, but it has genuinely been constructive. And I think that the final outcome will be a good one," he said.

There has been deadlock for weeks over the American insistence on not being tied by the Security Council and the French and Russian determination that the Council should have its say before any attack.

Meanwhile, the chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammed el-Baradei met US President George W Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney on Wednesday.

Mr Blix's team would be responsible for monitoring biological and chemical weapons in Iraq, while IAEA inspectors would search for nuclear weapons.

An unnamed US official told Reuters news agency the meeting was a "regular update", saying there was "nothing unusual in this".

'Imposing policy'

But earlier Iraq accused the US of trying to influence the weapons inspectors unfairly.

The US does not "allow others to work freely. They want to impose their policy on Iraq and not follow the Security Council or the United Nations' rules," Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Some reports say Mr Blix wants the existing draft US resolution on Iraq modified to avoid accusations that the inspectors could be biased.

This week, Mr Blix suggested that a new resolution on Iraq must be a tough one - otherwise it will be ignored by Iraq.

Just when the Council will vote on a resolution is not clear. There is now talk that it might not take place until next week - after the US midterm elections.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"It doesn't look as if we're heading towards a quick speedy vote on the resolution"
BBC correspondent David Bamford
"The Bush administration does not want to take any risk on this vote"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"The preferable outcome would be for the UN to agree to a new tough resolution"

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See also:

19 Sep 02 | Europe
29 Oct 02 | Middle East
28 Oct 02 | Americas
27 Oct 02 | Americas
23 Oct 02 | Middle East
30 Oct 02 | Politics
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