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
"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
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
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,
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."
the original at
New York Times