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US Set to Further Soften Iraq Terms

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U.S. set to further soften Iraq terms

Officials hope revisions will be acceptable to France at U.N.

By Andrea Mitchell

NBC NEWS

Nov. 4 — The Bush administration is poised to further soften the language of a proposed resolution on Iraq at the United Nations, hoping the compromise will win the acceptance of France, U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday.

UNDER THE plan, the United States would soften the language on what would constitute a future “material breach” of a U.N. resolution by Iraq, officials said.

France, along with Russia and China, have balked at a U.S. text that would declare Baghdad in “material breach” if it fails to co-operate with U.N. weapons inspectors. They don’t want the United Nations to greenlight military action without giving the Security Council a chance to debate the issue.

The objections have snarled negotiations at the United Nations since mid-September. The United States and Britain, who jointly proposed the resolution, have to date failed to persuade France, Russia and China, who hold a veto over any U.N. action.

However, the new U.S. proposal would not affect language that declares that Iraq already in “material breach” of past U.N. resolutions.

Washington asserts that President Saddam Hussein has ignored previous resolutions aimed at preventing the Iraqi regime from developing weapons of mass destruction.

According to diplomatic sources, the revisions could allow the United States to interpret the resolution as authorizing military action on the basis of past breaches by Iraq.

But it also may allow France to declare victory by wresting more concessions from Washington.

MORE FLEXIBILITY?

The new U.S. resolution will also include language that will grant more flexibility to chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, diplomatic sources said.

Although the wording was still being hammered out, the likely text will say that the Security Council “recommends” that Blix takes various actions, rather than mandating specific action.

And, following advice from Blix, the resolution will give Iraq more than 30 days to report on its alleged civilian uses of chemicals and biological agents. These are agents that Baghdad has said cannot categorize within such a short time period.

Based on a tentative schedule, the United States may present its revised text to the Security Council members on Tuesday, setting up a possible final vote for Thursday or Friday, U.S. officials said .

The remaining sticking point on the U.S. side was whether the compromise will be accepted by hard-line members of the administration.

SIGNS OF A COMPROMISE

The U.S. move follows signs of compromise that emerged last week at the United Nations.

“In the last few days we have succeeded in bringing the approaches of the five permanent members ... closer,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Friday. “We have converged on a whole series of positions.”

But his deputy, Yuri Fedotov, told the ITAR-Tass news agency “there are still considerable differences in a number of key issues.”

The search for an Iraq resolution began Sept. 12 when President Bush challenged world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly to deal with Iraq’s failure over the last 11 years to comply with resolutions or stand aside as the United States acted.

Four days later, Iraq invited U.N. weapons inspectors to return after nearly four years.

The proposed U.S. resolution would strengthen inspections, declare Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and threaten “serious consequences” if it fails to cooperate with inspectors.

Also on Friday, Blix briefed the 10 elected Security Council members on his plans for inspections and talks he had with Bush about the U.S. proposal.

Later, he met Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri. The Iraqi envoy said he requested the meeting to hear firsthand about Blix’s talks with Bush and other senior U.S. officials.

“He told me the most important thing is the United States chose the path of the United Nations to resolve the problem,” Al-Douri said.

But he expressed skepticism about Bush’s real motive because the president is committed to ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

“I still think the United Nations will be used as a tool for America to implement their political program against my country,” he told The Associated Press. “I hope that what they said is the truth, that the United Nations is the best way ... (but) we cannot trust them.”

On Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri hinted that Baghdad may not accept the draft U.S. resolution even if it wins Security Council approval.

“How can you expect Iraq to accept such an evil American resolution,” Sabri told reporters. “This resolution is rejected by the international community, and it will never be accepted by anybody.”

Speaking at the Baghdad trade fair alongside visiting Austrian politician Joerg Haider, Sabri said the “whole international community rejects warmongering, the desire for killing (and) blood destruction by this evil administration in Washington...”

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french are just waiting to the last minute so they can see how much oil and money they can squeeze out of it....apparently this is a typical french tactic....they'll give there approval at the very end in return for huge concessions from the US...

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