Archive for Saturday, November 2, 2002

U.S. presses France for Iraq compromise; Russia interested

November 2, 2002

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— Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed France on Friday to support a revised United Nations resolution on Iraq as Russia expressed a willingness to compromise.

Powell's telephone call to French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was part of a push for consensus on a text that retains the tough U.S.-British approach to Iraq's obligation to disarm.

The Bush administration's willingness to make marginal revisions stems in part from a suggestion by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. According to U.S. officials, he advised easing a 30-day deadline for Iraq to list all chemical programs that might have a connection to developing weapons.

As a result, the administration has decided to extend the deadline for civilian programs for 20 days, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The dickering could improve prospects for U.N. Security Council approval of a resolution, but not until after next Tuesday's congressional elections.

State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said Friday that "we are reviewing the comments" of members of the Security Council "but our bottom line remains the same."

These include declaring Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations under previous U.N. resolutions that ordered Baghdad to destroy its weapons of mass destruction and warning President Saddam Hussein that if he fails to get rid of such weapons, Iraq will suffer "serious consequences."

Powell, again pursuing telephone diplomacy, also spoke Friday with Foreign Ministers Jorge Castaneda of Mexico and Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia. And he talked to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, his closest ally in trying to bring pressure on Iraq to disarm.

President Bush again threatened to use force with or without U.N. authority as he campaigned Friday for Republican candidates in Harrisburg, Pa.

Slightly varying a familiar theme, Bush called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a threat to America.

At a political rally in Portsmouth, N.H., Bush said: "We know he's got ties with al-Qaida. A nightmare scenario, of course, is that he becomes the arsenal for a terrorist network and they could attack America and they'd leave no fingerprints behind."

At a terrorism conference in Washington, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said Iraq had procurement agents searching abroad for technology to advance its nuclear weapons program.

Iraq would be able to develop a nuclear weapon within a year if it had the right technology, Bolton said.

Russia and France object to threatening Iraq and want to defer U.N. action until international inspectors return to Iraq.

Blix briefed the 10 elected members of the Security Council on his plans for renewing inspections after a four-year interruption. He also met with Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri at the ambassador's request.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters Russia "firmly opposes any formulation that would allow anyone unilaterally to automatically proceed to use force."

However, Ivanov also said, "We have converged on a whole series of positions," he said, providing no details.

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