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The New York Times, March 6, 2003

France and Russia Ready to Use Veto Against Iraq War


Associated Press
Foreign Ministers Igor S. Ivanov of Russia, left, Dominique de Villepin of France and Joschka Fischer of Germany at a news briefing in Paris on Wednesday. They said they would block a resolution backing war in Iraq.

PARIS, March 5 France and Russia made clear today that they were ready to use their veto power to block passage of a new Security Council resolution authorizing force against Iraq, but Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the United States would go to war without United Nations backing if necessary.

Meeting in Paris, the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany issued a statement saying they would not "let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force."

Released two days before a crucial Security Council meeting to discuss Iraqi compliance with disarmament requirements, the statement added that Russia and France "as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume all their responsibilities on this point." Permanent members have veto rights.

The statement, clearly aimed at a draft resolution submitted last month by the United States, Britain and Spain that says Iraq has lost its last chance to disarm, hardened the rift among longtime allies that has emerged over Iraq. It made any diplomatic accord on the Bush administration's plans for going to war appear unlikely.

But Mr. Powell dismissed the inspection process as ineffective, and President Bush pressed ahead today with planning for a possibly imminent war.

"If the president of the United States decides to undertake action, we are in a position to provide a military option," Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander of American forces in the Persian Gulf, said after meeting with Mr. Bush.

Military officials said the president had been told that they could begin an attack against Iraq within the next several days.

The White House was dismissive of the European statement, saying no conclusions should be drawn from it about any vote next week on the resolution.

British diplomats at the United Nations, hoping to break the impasse, were said to be discussing an assurance that would accompany the resolution that would place a set interval between 72 hours and a week between the resolution's passage and any possible military action, a Council diplomat said.

Such a move had been discussed with some of the nonpermanent Council members, which diplomats said might back the resolution if they had a greater degree of comfort that they were not authorizing immediate war.

At the same time, Hans Blix, a chief United Nations weapons inspector, today repeated his view that he would welcome more time as much as four months to continue with the inspections.

About 250,00 American and British air, land and naval forces are now within striking distance of Iraq. The officials said a number of options for fighting a war were ready despite the fact that plans for a northern front have had to be rapidly readjusted because of Turkish opposition to the presence of American troops.

Senior administration officials said plans for a major speech on Iraq next week by the president were under review. One possibility, they said, was that Mr. Bush might give President Saddam Hussein of Iraq a very short period to disarm completely, perhaps as little as 72 hours, before military action began.

With the prospect of a Security Council veto now stronger than ever, it was unclear whether the administration would bring the resolution to a vote. Mr. Powell told Russian television that the administration was ready to lead a "coalition of willing nations, either under United Nations authority or without United Nations authority, if that turns out to be the case."

Mr. Blix made clear today that he believed that the inspections set in motion by the United Nations late last year were working.

"If we were to be given four months, I would welcome it," he said at a news conference. "There were eight years of inspections and four years of no inspections, and now we have had a couple of months. And it seems to me a rather short time to close the door and say, this is it."

That is broadly the position of France, Russia and Germany: that more time is needed for inspections that are working. But Mr. Powell, in a speech in Washington, was scathing about the inspection process.

He said new information based on intelligence sources showed that Iraq was making new rockets even as it was destroying old ones. Moreover, meetings between Iraqi scientists and the inspectors hailed as a breakthrough by opponents of a war are being bugged, he insisted.

America's apparent push toward war met further resistance among Muslim nations today. An acrimonious gathering of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, marked by shouting and insults between the Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegates, ended with a resolution rejecting any armed strike against Iraq.

In Rome, Pope John Paul II, at Ash Wednesday services, joined with leaders of other religions to urge the world to avoid a conflict in Iraq and called for a day of prayer and fasting to express the desire for peace.

In Paris, the declaration released jointly by the French, German and Russian foreign ministers called for an acceleration of the arms inspections. It further proposed that the United Nations inspectors put forward a detailed plan to allow the Security Council to evaluate the pace and scale of Iraqi disarmament. But the Bush administration regards such an approach as too slow.

Russia's foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, said China, which also has veto power, shared the European approach.

At a news conference after releasing the document, the ministers were at pains to make the argument that war in the Middle East would complicate efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and possibly set off fresh terrorist acts against the West.

The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, who has headed the drive against armed intervention in Iraq, said at the news conference, "A conflict in Iraq will do nothing to facilitate a solution in Israel."

Passage of any new Security Council resolution would require nine votes in favor, without vetoes, and there is now a frantic struggle for the support of undecided Council members. They are Pakistan, Chile, Mexico, Angola, Guinea and Cameroon.

Vladimir P. Lukin, deputy speaker of the lower house of Russia's Parliament, said Moscow was taking a principled stand. "There is a principle here, a basic principle," he said in an interview, echoing arguments repeatedly put forth by President Jacques Chirac of France, "that if someone tries to wage war on their own account, without other states, without an international mandate, it means all the world is confusion and a wild jungle."

Mr. Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to the United States, said he had urged his government to seek a compromise and to help the United States to save face. But he added: "Do you know the difference between a policeman and a gangster? A policeman complies with rules that are elaborated not by the policeman, but a certain democratic community accepted by everyone. A gangster implements his own rules."

In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain and the United States intended to put their draft paving the way for military action to a vote in the Security Council next week. Fielding questions in Parliament, Mr. Blair said that would happen if Mr. Blix reported to the Council on Friday that Mr. Hussein was still failing to comply fully with the existing Resolution 1441.

"It is plain at the present time he is not in such compliance," Mr. Blair said.

He suggested that war was still not inevitable, saying: "To people who say we are hell-bent on conflict, we still say today it can be avoided, if he does what the United Nations and the international community demands he do."


See also:

the original at
The New York Times

Situation around Iraq

The New York Times, March 6, 2003

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