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Archive for Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Russia, France reject U.S. draft on Iraq

October 23, 2002

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— In a troubling sign for U.S. efforts to push a tough new Iraq resolution through the Security Council, Russia and France said Tuesday they weren't satisfied with a revised draft that warns Baghdad of "serious consequences" if it fails to cooperate with weapons inspections.

The five permanent council members the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China discussed the new U.S. text for the first time at a three-hour meeting on Tuesday, with Paris and Moscow concerned the draft could be used by Washington to launch an attack on Iraq. The five veto-wielding members met again for more than an hour Tuesday afternoon.

"The American draft resolution ... does not answer the criteria which the Russian side laid out earlier and which it confirms today," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said after meeting Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, in Moscow.

France also expressed disappointment with the latest U.S. offer.

"There is still a lot of work to do," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday in Luxembourg. "There are some points that need to be discussed among us before we have an accord."

A senior Chinese diplomat at the United Nations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It's a pity there are no substantive changes from the previous text."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said negotiations were likely to be complicated and messy. But he dismissed Ivanov's statement, saying: "We think these discussions are moving forward."

After the second meeting, U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the United States wanted to prevent a veto by trying to forge consensus among the five permanent members. "I think you have to allow the negotiating process a little bit of time," he said.

France, backed by Russia and China, wants to give Iraq another chance to meet U.N. disarmament obligations. It favors a two-stage approach that would give Iraq a chance to comply and only authorize force in a second resolution if Baghdad obstructed inspections.

The new U.S. proposal, drafted with British support, is a single resolution that Washington says will allow the use of force if Saddam Hussein fails to cooperate. It includes phrases that could be interpreted as triggering military action, wording that has raised disagreement from the French and Russians.

On Tuesday, Iraqi state television urged the permanent members to prevent the United States from pushing through an "evil and aggressive" resolution that it said "would be considered a violation of the signed agreements between Iraq and the United Nations."

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