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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:11 GMT
Q&A: Iraq resolution imminent
Q&A: What are students' rights at work?
On Friday the UN Security Council is expected to pass a tough new resolution under which weapons inspectors will return to Iraq. BBC News Online looks at the key questions surrounding the inspections and the circumstances which could lead to war against Iraq.

What would the new resolution mean?

The passing of the resolution will establish a new, strict inspection regime intended to give Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its obligations under previous resolutions to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq will have seven days from the date of the resolution to agree to comply with it.

The chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, will visit Iraq within two weeks of the passing of the resolution, probably 19 or 20 November, to start immediate weapons inspections.

France and Russia have reportedly agreed to drop their threat to veto the resolution.

However, they are still said to be worried by the resolution's warning that "serious consequences" would follow Iraq's failure to comply with inspectors.

France and Russia insist that this should not be used by the US as an automatic trigger for military action if the inspectors are impeded.

What is the timetable for implementation?

The exact timetable will depend on the date of the passing of the resolution but the BBC's UN correspondent, Jon Leyne, says that the following dates are key:

  • 15 November - By this date, seven days after the resolution is passed, Iraq must confirm that it will comply with it.
  • 19 or 20 November - This is the date Hans Blix intends to travel to Iraq, starting the first weapons inspection almost immediately.
  • 8 December - By this date, 30 days after the passing of the resolution, Iraq must provide a full declaration of its chemical, biological, nuclear and delivery programmes. This is a key deadline and the first likely trigger for confrontation.
  • 23 December - The resolution stipulates that inspections should resume no later than 45 days after passage of the resolution.
  • 18 January - The inspectors have 60 days to report on their progress to the Security Council. It is not clear from the draft resolution whether the clock runs from the day they arrive in Iraq - expected to be around 19 November or from the 23 December.

The Bush Administration is likely to press for the earlier of the two dates for the presentation of the reports.

Under what circumstances might the US demand for military action?

Any material breach of the resolution by Iraq would be expected to lead Washington to press for military action.

This could be a refusal to comply with the resolution, a failure by to provide an accurate declaration of its chemical, biological, nuclear and delivery programmes or any attempt to restrict or impede access by the inspectors to sites they wish to inspect.

The US has intelligence material from which they have built up their own picture of Iraq's weapons programmes.

If Iraq's declaration does not include everything that the US believes it should, this would constitute a material breach in American eyes and could be a trigger for military action.

Does the resolution specify that a breach will lead automatically to war?

No.

It says that the Security Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of continued violations of its obligations under UN resolutions.

It is not clear from the resolution who is to judge when a material breach has occurred.

The US will want the phrase "serious consequences" to mean military action against Iraq to destroy all suspected programmes for producing weapons of mass destruction.

Washington has also made clear that the removal of Saddam Hussein is a key policy aim.

Russia and France do not want military action to be the result of the new resolution, certainly not without further reference to the Security Council.

Other states would only give their support to military action against Iraq if there is explicit UN approval.

The US has made it clear that it will not delay much further and the BBC's Jon Leyne says that Washington might well take the view that it can act alone, or with Britain, if Iraq is seen to be in breach of the new resolution.


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