UNITED NATIONS - France and Russia want key changes in a U.S.-drafted resolution on Iraqi disarmament that the United States is not prepared to make during Friday's review of the document among all 15 council members.
The proposed U.S. resolution, co-sponsored by Britain, give U.N. arms inspectors far-reaching rights and privileges in ferreting out any weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq.
It declares Iraq in "material breach" of U.N. resolutions and warns Iraq of "serious consequences" if it thwarts U.N. weapons inspections, language Russia and France fear the United States can interpret as sufficient for military action.
In preparation for the Friday closed-door council session France held meetings with the 10 temporary members of the council to argue against having "material breach" in the text and changing other key U.S. demands.
But Secretary of State Colin Powell as well as national security adviser Condoleezza Rice have made clear this week that deleting these provisions were not negotiable, although they were open to other changes in the text.
Russia produced its own draft, almost identical to one France circulated several weeks ago but did not formally introduce it. At the same time French envoys distributed another set of proposals they are using as a negotiating stance, diplomats said.
Both Russia and France want U.N. inspectors to report on Iraq's cooperation with arms inspections to the Security Council before considering the use of military force.
Iraq last month allowed the arms inspectors to return unconditionally. They left in December 1998 on the eve of a U.S.-British bombing raid.
EVERY VOTE CRUCIAL
The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China are permanent Security Council members with veto power. For a resolution to be adopted, nine "yes" votes are needed and no veto, which means every vote is crucial.
Neither Russia nor France has threatened a veto but are hoping the 10 non-permanent members of the council will insist on enough changes to force Washington to make more concessions.
The 10 non-permanent members are: Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Guinea, Ireland, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Singapore and Syria.
U.S. officials, who believe they have a majority, are hoping for a vote next week but Powell appeared relaxed about the timetable in comments to leading businessmen at a Pacific Rim conference in Los Cabos, Mexico.
"I am hopeful that in the not too distant future, the next days, a week or two, the United Nations will act in a powerful way and let Iraq know that it must obey or suffer consequences for continued disobedience," he said late on Thursday."
Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso told reporters before the meeting that the U.S. draft "was getting a little bit more support but it's not there yet."
Council members are expected to spend most of Friday going through the text slowly, with each member suggesting word changes. On Monday chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, give the council their views on the draft resolution.
The United States and Britain, meanwhile are lobbying the nations with seats on the council in various capitals in the world as well as in New York.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin meets President Bush at his Texas ranch on Friday. Beijing, which has spoken out against a war with Iraq, is expected to abstain on any resolution the council may adopt.
Powell, at the edges of a meeting of foreign and trade ministers from the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, held separate talks on Thursday with the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov after lobbying Mexico, which had earlier agreed with France on the he resolution.
Powell also spoke to Singapore, which has a council seat, telling Lee Yock Suan, a second minister for foreign affairs, he hoped his country would make its support known "at the meeting that will be in New York."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, on Thursday likened the U.S. draft to a declaration of war against Baghdad and the United Nations. He said Washington was using the world body "to create justifications for attacking Iraq."
In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sabri said he did not understand why a new resolution was needed in the first place. He also asked why the weapons inspectors had not come to Baghdad to begin work, according to U.N. officials.
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd