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[casi] U.S. Waits for U.N. Resolution; Iraq Sees 'Pretext'

U.S. Waits for U.N. Resolution; Iraq Sees 'Pretext'

October 29, 2002 06:47 PM ET

By Jonathan Wright and Hassan Hafidh

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday gave the
U.N. Security Council more time to agree a resolution on disarming Iraq, but
Baghdad said Washington was only seeking a pretext for war.

The United States and France have circulated competing Security Council
resolutions, the U.S. one mapping a much quicker route to attacking Iraq than
France is willing to accept.

The United States has repeatedly shown signs of impatience with the U.N.
debate, now in its seventh week, but Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news
conference on Tuesday negotiations were making progress.

 Asked how long the United States could wait, he said: "We're getting close
to a point where we'll have to see whether or not we can bridge these remaining
differences -- in the very near future, I don't want to give you days or a week
but it certainly isn't much longer than that."

Powell suggested the dispute could end in a battle over rival resolutions.

"We'll have to see whether or not we can get for the most part consensus on a
resolution and, if not, we'll have to make a judgement as to whether we start
putting resolutions up, competing resolutions for votes," he said.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan made clear that Baghdad did not
trust the United States or the U.N. arms inspectors who would be sent to verify
that Baghdad does not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

"America doesn't want the return of inspectors. It wants to issue a (U.N.)
resolution with a formula in order to be rejected by Iraq and give it a pretext to
commit aggression against Iraq," Ramadan said in remarks published by Baghdad

Proposing that independent media and individuals should accompany the U.N.
inspection teams, he said, "We will not allow the inspectors to be the sole source
(of information) because we don't trust them."

Ramadan said it was wrong to rely solely on the "head of any (inspection)
team who would send a report to the (U.N.) Security Council, which would issue a
resolution based on that report."

In Washington, the White House brushed off the Iraqi call for independent
monitors. "Once again Iraq is attaching conditions to something in which they
should have no say," said spokesman Ari Fleischer.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have invited the leaders of the
U.N. arms inspection teams for talks at the White House on Wednesday, U.N. sources

They did not spell out the precise purpose of the visit by chief U.N. arms
inspector Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International
Atomic Energy Agency. But they said Blix needed to touch base with the major
powers on the U.N. Security Council.

Another U.N. official said he viewed the White House invitation as a sign
that Washington was now serious about the prospect of weapons inspectors returning
to Iraq.


Powell spoke twice on Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is
trying to mediate the dispute in the Security Council.

Diplomats at the United Nations said that if the United States did not get
enough agreement for a vote on Wednesday or Thursday, it would wait until Nov. 6,
a day after the U.S. congressional elections.

The United States had been pushing for a resolution this week but White House
spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday he did not rule out a delay until next

"Always at the U.N., as these things come down to the wire, the timing is a
little hard to pinpoint so I don't rule out that it could be next week as well,"
he said.

"I think the United Nations understands it's decision-making time very soon,"
he added.

Powell repeated the U.S. position that Bush reserved the right to attack Iraq
without U.N. approval if he wanted to, even after the United Nations passed a

If U.N. inspectors decided that Iraq was obstructing their mission, they
would report immediately to the council, he said, citing one requirement in the
U.S. resolution.

"As their clock is ticking, there is a clock that is also ticking on the U.S.
side as to whether or not the violation is of such a nature that the president
makes a judgement in due course that he should act if the U.N. chooses not to
act," Powell said.

At the United Nations, diplomats said U.S. and French officials were working
hard on a compromise.

"A package is taking shape but it is not there yet," said a diplomat,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "They could sort this out in an hour flat, but
that doesn't mean they will."

France is a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, together with the
four other permanent council members: Britain, China, Russia and the United

The United States, backed by Britain, has been urging the Security Council to
back a resolution to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to give up any weapons of
mass destruction or face dire consequences.

Baghdad denies possessing such weapons. It clashed repeatedly with U.N. arms
inspectors sent in after the 1991 Gulf War, and did not allow them back after they
left in 1998.

Iraq agreed earlier this month to resume inspections, but under the terms of
existing U.N. resolutions. It rejected any new resolution as unnecessary.

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