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US-British Strategy on Iraq Close to Collapse
Published on Monday, October 28, 2002 by the Times/UK
US-British Strategy on Iraq Close to Collapse
by James Bone in New York and Chris Ayres in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

THE six-week effort by Britain and the United States to secure a tough United Nations resolution on Iraq is in danger of collapse because of continued opposition to their threats of military action.

With US officials pushing for a decision by the end of the week, the two powers are struggling to enlist the nine votes needed to push their strongly worded draft resolution through the 15-nation UN Security Council.

Both France and Russia have circulated rival proposals omitting “trigger language” for the use of force. Seeing strength in numbers, Paris and Moscow hope to draw away enough votes from the US-British draft that they will not have to confront the world’s sole superpower directly by exercising their veto.

Britain and the United States have formally tabled their text in the Security Council to ensure that it comes to a vote first, but France threatened at the weekend to submit its draft for a vote as well if it did not win further concessions. “We are going to try to work with the Americans on the basis of the text they have proposed,” Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, said on Saturday. “If we don’t manage that, then we will obviously officially propose our own text.”

Diplomats say that Britain and the United States can count on the support only of Bulgaria, Colombia, Norway and Singapore for its latest proposal. Russia, China, France and Syria do not support the present US-British text. The swing votes are Cameroon, Ireland, Guinea, Mauritius and Mexico.

President Bush, attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Mexico, apparently failed to convince President Fox of Mexico to use his UN vote to back military action. After a tense meeting on Saturday, Señor Fox said: “What we need to accomplish is a resolution that is satisfactory to all the parties there in the United Nations. We are listening and talking and we want to search for and do everything possible for a strong resolution.”

Glowering at the cameras, Mr Bush responded: “As I have said in speech after speech after speech, if the UN won’t act, if Saddam Hussein won’t disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”

In the meeting Mr Bush reportedly balked at Señor Fox’s invitation to make a state visit to Mexico next year to mark the tenth anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “Maybe we’ll be at war,” Mr Bush replied, according to the Los Angeles Times. Señor Fox said: “If you’re at war, you’re at war. But right now you’re not at war, so think about it.”

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, conceded that the push for a new resolution might fail. “I don’t want to say that we’re near a solution because it may evade us,” he said, “but I think we have successfully narrowed down the differences to a few key issues. And if we can resolve these few key issues in the days ahead, then I think we might get a resolution that would be strong.”

Diplomats say that the key point of disagreement is the so-called “trigger language”. The US-British draft declares Iraq in “material breach” of the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire and gives warning of “serious consequences” if it fails to live up to UN demands — both considered “hidden triggers”. France, in its rival text, is willing to go along with a veiled warning of “serious consequences”, but it refuses to accept a declaration of “material breach” that could provide the legal basis for military action. Security Council members are also split over US-British proposals to toughen the UN weapons inspectors’ mandate with new powers, such as the right to declare no-fly and no-drive zones.

In a bid to break the deadlock, Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, has proposed a ministerial meeting of the Security Council to several of his counterparts, including General Powell. He said that they had welcomed the idea.

The APEC leaders agreed on a series of counter-terrorism measures that focused on denying would-be attackers access to ships and aircraft and stemming their access to funds.

Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd


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