Representatives from around the world lined up at the UN Security Council last night to berate America for rushing towards war.
The public session, at which any UN member can speak, was requested by South Africa as the current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Mahathir Mohamed, the Malaysian Prime Minister who takes over the Non-Aligned chairmanship next week, said: "We have no military or financial strength, but we can join the world movement to oppose war on moral grounds."
While a series of speakers argued for the inspectors to be given more time, Japan said it supported a second resolution and threw its weight behind the US position. Koichi Haraguchi, Japan's ambassador, told the session that "even if the inspections were to be continued and strengthened, they will hardly lead to the elimination of its [Iraq's] weapons of mass destruction unless Iraq fundamentally changes its attitude of co-operating only passively".
British and American diplomats have been working behind the scenes to draft a resolution that would pave the way for military action. The resolution's timing and content are uncertain but America reluctantly agreed with Britain to wait at least until after the conclusion of the Council meeting, at which about 50 UN member states were expected to speak, before tabling a text.
The extra time is being used to gauge the depth of resistance to any such text from veto-wielding countries in the Council France, Russia and China. Sources said earlier versions drafted by Washington and London were being watered down to take account of the opposition, fueled by last Friday's reports from the inspectors.
Britain has been struggling to convince America that it should stay the course at the UN and resist the temptation to push for war without a second resolution, relying instead on resolution 1441 passed last November. Sources said they expected to see a short text that avoided making any explicit call for war but deemed Iraq in further "material breach" of UN resolutions code for military action. Even that phrase could be substituted with the words "flagrant violation".
A new resolution is likely to spark furious debate. France asserts that war should only be considered as a "last resort". The Security Council would seek to define when a moment of "last resort" arrives.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd