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US, France Stay Firm on Iraq At Unusual UN Meeting

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POLITICS - U.S., France Stay Firm on Iraq at Unusual U.N. Meeting

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 (IPS) - The United States and France, two Western allies with veto-wielding powers in the United Nations Security Council, publicly disagreed Thursday on their strategy to deal with Iraq if it does not cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told an unusual open meeting of the Security Council that the only way to ensure Iraqi compliance was ''through one (Council) resolution that is firm and unambiguous in its message''.

''We are considering the reactions we have received, and will be placing before the Council, in the near future, a resolution with clear and immediate requirements - requirements that Iraq would voluntarily meet if it chooses to cooperate,'' Negroponte said.

The U.S. envoy virtually reiterated President George W. Bush's warning that the United States would not waver from a ''one-resolution approach'' on Iraq.

The proposed resolution, which is yet to be formally introduced in the Security Council, is expected to trigger an automatic military attack on Iraq if it fails to work with U.N. arms inspectors.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has already invited inspectors into the country, but Bush has dismissed the move as a ploy to delay a tough Security Council resolution.

The open meeting gave the U.N.'s 191 member states the opportunity to address the Security Council, which usually meets in closed sessions. More than 65 nations had addressed the Council by Thursday afternoon, day two of the meeting, most of them opposed to a resolution that would permit an attack.

The meeting was expected to end late Thursday, with a vote on a resolution possible but unlikely, observers said.

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France disagreed with Negroponte.

''Only a two-stage approach will allow us to preserve our Council's unity; any kind of 'automacity' in the use of force will profoundly divide us,'' he warned the Security Council.

Although Levitte hinted that Iraq might have resumed developing weapons of mass destruction, he disagreed with the U.S. contention that Baghdad has the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Over the weekend, French President Jacques Chirac also distanced himself from the United States, which has accused Iraq of establishing links with al-Qaeda terrorist groups.

''As far as I know, no proof has been found, or at least been made official, for a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda,'' Chirac told an Arabic language Beirut-based newspaper.

Chirac also said that even if al-Qaeda terrorists had found safe haven in Iraq, ''we must not mix the two issues''.

''The first objective of action by the international community is Iraq, and that means disarmament,'' he said.

Levitte said that the two-stage approach advocated by France has also been proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

''The two-stage approach is, rather, the choice of cohesion. United in sending Iraq a message of firmness in an initial resolution, the Security Council will - we have no doubt - remain united to assume all of its responsibilities during the second stage, should Iraq violate its commitments,'' he added.

The ambassador also suggested that granting a state the right to automatically act against Iraq could marginalize the Security Council.

''Given the gravity of the situation, in which nothing less than peace or war is at stake, it is essential for the Security Council to remain in charge of the process every step of the way.''

Ambassador Segey Lavrov of Russia said the important point of the debate was not whether the Security Council should propose one or two resolutions.

If Iraq is genuinely interested in disarming, he said, the right thing to do was for the U.N. arms inspectors to travel to Baghdad ''as early as tomorrow'' and for Iraq to ''fully and scrupulously'' cooperate.

Lavrov also pointed out that U.N. arms inspectors had destroyed more weapons in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 than during the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991.

But he warned that the Security Council should not be a party to a ''regime change'' in Iraq - ''which has been alluded to by senior officials''.

Bush has not only called for the ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein but has warned that if he does not get the blessings of the Security Council, he will go ahead and attack Iraq alone.

The U.S. says its reasons for a proposed attack are numerous: Iraq not only possesses weapons of mass destruction and provides support to terrorist groups, it is also in violation of some 16 Security Council resolutions.

The strongest support for the U.S. position came from British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who told delegates that Britain remains ''deeply perturbed by evidence that Iraq believes it can hide its weapons of mass destruction rather than declare them, that it can again fool the inspectors and play games with them''.

That analysis, backed up by ''reliable intelligence'', indicates that Iraq still possesses chemical and biological materials, he said.

Iraq has also continued to produce these weapons and has active military plans for the deployment of such weapons, Greenstock added.

The British envoy also said that Iraq had in recent years tried to buy multiple components to make a nuclear bomb.

''It would be an abdication of responsibility to ignore this challenge to the international community. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist. We cannot accept the Iraqi government's word at face value, knowing what we know,'' Greenstock said.

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Originally posted by sassa

Yeah, and half of Americans are on welfare. Your point?

The French talk like fags and they are different than us.....

Maybe the US should invade them too. We would make them more fit for this world.

Oh yeah I forgot my point is.

The US always has to save their sorry ass, and the one time we ask for their support, they run like pussies. I will boycott french fries until they come to their sences and back us on the Iraq issue. I knew our truce wouldnt last sass.....

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