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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 01:00 GMT
Bush and Blair face diplomatic disaster
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the Security Council
Britain is now firmly committed to military action

The French and Russian announcements that they will use their vetoes at the United Nations Security Council spell diplomatic disaster for the American and British effort to get a second resolution. If the veto is used, there will simply be no resolution.

The best that President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair could hope for would be the so-called "moral majority" - nine of the 15 votes. But a "moral majority" has no legal status.

The vote is unlikely now before Wednesday at the earliest and could be later in the week.

It is possible that the US and UK will have to withdraw the new resolution if it is clear they are isolated, although last week President Bush said he wanted countries to "show their cards" in a vote.

Other countries on the council, still undecided, might be strengthened in their opposition knowing that the French and the Russians, together with the Germans and possibly the Chinese, are holding firm.

Annan intervention

The intervention of the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who said that action outside the UN would break the UN charter, presents another problem, especially for Mr Blair who is facing domestic dissent.

President Bush would not worry. He has already said that he doesn't need anyone's permission to act.

This doesn't mean that war will be stopped - the US, probably supported by the UK, will go ahead anyway - the Security Council will be in disarray

The British Government would be thrown back on claiming that Resolution 1441 and previous resolutions warning Iraq give authority for military action.


This doesn't mean that war will be stopped. The US, probably supported by the UK, will go ahead anyway.

The Security Council will be in disarray. There will be diplomatic scores to settle later.

The threat - the promise, indeed - of vetoes makes talk of concessions somewhat academic. And yet that was the tactic of certainly the British, with the Americans reluctantly falling in behind in support of their ally Tony Blair.

The reality both governments must now face is that a follow up resolution may be out of reach.

Both France and Russia are following the logic of their positions which is that inspections have been working and should be allowed to continue. Against that, the concessions offered by Britain and the US are not enough.

One concession being offered concerned the deadline of 17 March by which Iraq is supposed to demonstrate compliance.

This could be changed.

A delay would be in response to complaints by Council members, Chile for instance, who have said that the time allowed is too short.

Delay possible

A delay of several days, even a week, could be expected.

The draft resolution currently says that Iraq will have failed to take its final opportunity of disarming unless by 17 March "the council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active co-operation".

At the same time - again in response to complaints that there is no way of judging Iraqi co-operation - a list of questions Iraq would have to answer satisfactorily by whatever deadline is agreed is being drawn up.

The questions would be taken from a 173-page document produced by the chief weapons inspector Dr Hans Blix.

It is called the "clusters" document as it deals with a number of outstanding disarmament issues.

Questions for Iraq

The questions would cover areas which the document deals with.

It says, for example, that Iraq might have kept

  • some Scud missiles
  • 550 mustard gas shells
  • 350 R-400 bombs capable of chemical and biological warfare
  • 6,500 chemical bombs.

It adds that there is a "strong presumption that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist".

American and British officials feel that Dr Blix underplayed the document in his speech to the Security Council last Friday.

They fear that his verbal report has undermined their efforts to swing doubters on the Council their way.

It turns out that the document is far more damning about Iraqi compliance than was Mr Blix's speech.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday that he thought Dr Blix "could have made more of it" - a diplomatic understatement.

Drone discovered

The Foreign Office in London lost no time in sending out its own summary - it was e-mailed to the media within minutes of Dr Blix's speech.

Baroness Valerie Amos
Amos - a black woman born in Guyana - countering the French foreign minister
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw brandished a well thumbed copy of the report during his own speech as if to ask why Dr Blix had not produced it himself.

Mr Straw called the document "a shocking indictment" of Iraq. In a further flourish he has since called it a "chilling catalogue".

The document had one new and potentially key piece of information, though British officials acknowledge that Dr Blix probably did not have the full details in time for his speech.

They were added to the document late last Friday.

The new finding revealed that that an unmanned drone aircraft has been found with a wingspan wider than Iraq had claimed, and that this might be capable of exceeding the 150-kilometre (93-mile) range for weapons delivery systems permitted by the UN.

In his speech Dr Blix indicated that he was only releasing the document, which is still in its draft form, under pressure from some Council members. It was not actually due to be delivered until later this month.

Propaganda battle

Franco-British rivalry is now at its most intense.

The Foreign Secretary in a statement to the House of Commons on Monday rejected the French idea of an extended period of inspections. That, he said, would be a return to the failed policy of containment.

The British Government has despatched its Minister for Africa back to the three African countries on the Security Council - Angola, Cameroon and Guinea - which she visited only recently.

She will not complete her mission before Wednesday.

She will follow on the heels of the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in an effort to counter French pressure on the three countries.

It is an interesting tactic to counter the charismatic French minister with a black woman who was born in Guyana.

Call from Blair

Mr Blair has also called the Chinese President Jiang Zemin, but did not appear to get very far as the Chinese news agency quoted the president as saying that "it's in everyone's interest to take as much time as is needed".

Such comments lie behind the decision to offer more time. Angola seems opposed to the current deadline as well.

Its Deputy Foreign Minister, Jorge Chicote, told the BBC that Luanda would not support the draft resolution.

Earlier, President Ricardo Lagos of Chile said that the deadline of 17 March left "too little time".

A delay might even help the United States get a decision from Turkey on the use of Turkish bases for a major American force.

The Turkish parliament has refused to agree so far but the leader of the AKP party Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected to parliament over the weekend and intends to re-examine the issue as prime minister.

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