[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
LANGUAGES
arabic
persian
pashto
turkish
french
Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 14:17 GMT
Blix briefs UN as war looms

By Barnaby Mason
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Colin Powell
US Secretary of State Colin Powell will not be attending the council's session this time
Despite the imminence of war, several foreign ministers are attending a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday to hear the chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, set out what Iraq still has to do to account for its weapons of mass destruction.

The French, Russian and German foreign ministers will be there; their American and British counterparts will not.

In advance of the meeting, France has complained to Britain about remarks blaming it for the breakdown of negotiations in the council.

The recriminations between the rival big-power camps are continuing on the eve of war.

Over the past few days, the United States and Britain have repeatedly accused France of wrecking the chance of reaching an agreed position in the Security Council on Iraqi disarmament.

The British Government has been particularly outspoken and undiplomatic, with different ministers describing as extraordinary and unreasonable the French threat to veto a new resolution whatever the circumstances.

Now the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, has telephoned his British counterpart, Jack Straw, to express shock and sadness at these remarks.

According to Paris, he said they were not worthy of a friendly nation and European partner; as for the charge that France was to blame for the failure to agree on a new resolution, that did not fool anyone.

Little impact

These exchanges do not bode well for the Security Council session.

One American official is quoted as describing it as an unusual meeting detached from reality.

With the UN weapons inspectors withdrawn from Iraq, another report from Hans Blix setting out what the Iraqis still have to do on weapons of mass destruction can make little practical difference.

I think political pressure, and even more military pressure, was essential to get the Iraqis to declare and to co-operate, but I think that when pressure is transformed into the use of force, then that's a disaster
UN chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix
But the French Government and its allies want to underline their disagreement with President Bush's decision to go to war by appearing in strength in the Security Council - the body which they say he is abandoning.

On Monday, President Chirac said there was a heavy responsibility on those who threw off the legitimacy of the United Nations and preferred force over the law.

The French may also hope to show in the session that majority opinion in the council is still with them, and to enlist Hans Blix in their cause.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Blix said he believed the inspections should have continued.

"I think political pressure, and even more military pressure, was essential to get the Iraqis to declare and to co-operate, but I think that when pressure is transformed into the use of force, then that's a disaster," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"The foreign ministers feel they've been sidelined"



INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific