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U.N. Iraq resolution expected in days

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UN, Iraq Resolution Expected in Days

NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES

Oct. 20 — The United States plans to introduce a resolution on Iraq to the U.N. Security Council this week calling for full weapons inspections, the destruction of weapons of mass destruction and spelling out the consequences if Baghdad chooses not to comply, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“EARLY THIS WEEK, we will be putting down a full resolution for consideration by all members of the council,” Powell told “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert.

However, Powell made it clear that the resolution would in no way limit the power of President Bush to take military action alone.

“The president has said clearly that if in that instance the United Nations will not act, then the United States, with other like-minded nations, will act,” he said. “And the resolution that’s under consideration would in no way affect the president’s ability to do that in a negative way if that’s what he chooses to do at the time.”

Powell, who has spoken of “regime change” in Iraq for at least 18 months, also said Sunday the United States might not seek to remove Saddam Hussein if he abandoned his weapons of mass destruction.

It was the latest in a series of recent comments by Powell that seemed to back away from the goal of deposing the Iraqi president, which remains Bush administration policy.

“We think the Iraqi people would be a lot better off with a different leader, a different regime,” Powell said. “But the principal offense here is weapons of mass destruction, and that’s what this (U.N.) resolution is working on. The major issue before us is disarmament.”

RESOLUTION PROGRESSES

On Friday French President Jacques Chirac said that U.N. talks on Iraq were “making progress,” signaling that key Security Council members may resolve the month-long stalemate on a resolution dealing with Iraq’s alleged buildup of weapons of mass destruction. France has led the opposition to initial U.S. proposals calling for immediate use of force against Iraq if Baghdad does not meet demands for weapons inspections.

The United States has softened its position, saying it would give the Security Council a chance to react first if arms inspectors ruled that Iraq was obstructing them.

“What I don’t want in this matter is that it is described as a clash ... that’s not the issue,” Chirac said. “There’s no opposition between the French thesis and the American thesis. There’s simply a French affirmation of what it believes to be international law and common sense.”

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported earlier that France remained dissatisfied with part of the compromise text offered by the United States.

Although Washington has dropped its demand on an explicit trigger for military action if Baghdad fails to comply with disarmament demands, France remained wary of any threat before Iraq has a chance to prove its willingness to grant weapons inspectors full access to its installations.

U.S. diplomats insist on the need for only one resolution, instead of France’s desire for two.

But, according to Mitchell, the U.S. text will suggest that the Security Council convene immediately if inspectors report difficulties or failure by Iraq to cooperate.

The language will not say that a second U.N. vote is necessary, although it won’t rule it out, a strategy aimed at appeasing both sides.

The U.S. compromise was drawn up with the help of its close ally Britain. It was aimed at winning support from France, Russia and China, the other three of the five members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power.

U.N. CALLED BEST VENUE

Meanwhile on Sunday, leaders of French-speaking nations concluded a summit in Beirut where they affirmed the primacy of the United Nations in dealing with Iraq.

“We defend the primacy of international law and the primordial role of the United Nations,” the summit’s final communiqué said.

“We call for collective responsibility to resolve this Iraqi crisis, and we call on Iraq to fully respect its obligations. We note with satisfaction that Iraq has officially accepted the unconditional resumption of United Nations inspections,” it added.

RUSSIA WEIGHS IN

For its part, Russia suggested it was ready to support the United States. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday that Moscow would support a scenario in which the Security Council could pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq if weapons inspectors run into problems.

“If the inspectors began to work in Iraq and in the course of this work problems appear, the inspectors should report what problems have arisen. Then the U.N. Security Council should again consider this issue and decide whether harsher measures, right up to the use of force, are required,” Ivanov said at a news conference in Moscow.

A proposal to that effect is being put forward by the United States. It calls for inspectors to “report immediately to the council any failure by Iraq to comply with its disarmament,” according to excerpts of the new U.S. proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

If a failure is reported, the Security Council would convene immediately “to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all the relevant council resolutions in order to restore international peace and security.”

‘GATHERING DANGER’

The crisis began five weeks ago when Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly and told skeptical world leaders to confront the “grave and gathering danger” posed by Iraq — or stand aside as the United States acts.

Iraq responded to the escalating threat of U.S. military action by suddenly inviting U.N. weapons inspectors to return after barring them for nearly four years. The inspectors left Baghdad in December 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes punishing Iraq for obstructing their work.

Inspectors must certify that Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs have been destroyed before sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait can be lifted.

The standoff among the five permanent, veto-wielding members has dragged on for weeks behind closed doors. On Wednesday and Thursday, the council held a public debate on the Iraq crisis for the first time.

More than 60 countries spoke during the debate, which was requested by the Non-Aligned Movement comprising 115 mainly developing countries pressing for a peaceful solution.

Ambassadors from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America warned that a new war would add to the suffering of Iraqis, possibly engulf the Middle East and have dire consequences for global stability. With the exception of Britain and Israel, they refused to endorse the original U.S. demand.

NBC’s Linda Fasulo at the United Nations and Andrea Mitchell in Washington, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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