UN Security Council Remain Deeply Divided over Iraq

After a three-hour intense closed-door consultation Thursday, the United Nations Security Council remained deeply divided over whether it is time to use force to disarm Iraq.

On the table were a draft resolution presented by the United States, Britain and Spain, and a memorandum by France, Germany and Russia.

The resolution, seeking UN approval of war on Iraq, declares Iraq missed "the final opportunity" offered by UN resolution 1441.As a counterproposal, the memorandum calls for disarming Iraq through continued enhanced inspections.

Emerging from the council chamber, British Ambassador to the United Nations told reporters that there is "no future" in the inspections and so far no progress has been reported by inspectors in Iraq's cooperation.

He reiterated that resolution 1441 has set the standards for Iraq's compliance, that is "immediate and unconditional" cooperation.

On behalf of Mexico and Chile, Mexican Ambassador Aguilar Zinser said both Mexico and Chile still believe Iraq "can be disarmed through peaceful means."

Stressing the council is facing a "very defining moment," French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the council now must choose between a resolution declaring "there is no other option than war" and a proposal aiming to disarm Iraq through peaceful means.

"In my view, shown very clearly, that in the council the majority see time has not come to decide to go to war," he stressed.

"We do see another option," he said, adding the option is to enhance inspections, clarify program of work for inspetors and seta clear timeline for them.

La Sabliere's view was echoed by his German and Syrian colleagues.

German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger reiterated that it is the council's common goal to completely get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "The question is it is time really up or do we need more time to reach that goal -- disarm Iraq through peaceful means," he noted.

"I think, including co-sponsors of our paper ... a majority of council members are of the view that all options for disarming Iraq peacefully have not been exhausted," he said.

He emphasized that there is a possibility of making the inspections "more intrusive" and "more effective" by setting a clear mandate for inspectors and objective benchmarks for Iraq.

Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said most council members concentrate on the peaceful resolution of the Iraqi issue.

Asked about his reaction to Canada's informal proposal on Iraq, Wehbe said the proposal was not discussed during the meeting since it was not an official document presented to the council.

The Canadian proposal, in the form of a non-paper, is aimed at bridging the divide between the two camps. It suggests a March 28 deadline for Iraq to comply with its obligations to disarm.

During the meeting, the council agreed to meet on March 7 to hear a briefing by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix on his new report about inspection progress.



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