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UN Council to Mull New US Draft

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U.N. Council to mull new U.S. draft

France reportedly drops opposition to key point after revision

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 5 — The United States will present its latest draft resolution on Iraqi disarmament to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday after France reportedly dropped objections to a key provision.

FRANCE, WHICH had led the resistance to U.S. proposals, was believed to have agreed to a key provision in the text, which was described by diplomats as “creative ambiguity.”

The five permanent members of the council with veto power — the United States, China, France, Russia and Britain — will meet first to receive copies of the latest text, the envoys said.

The Bush administration hopes for a vote by Friday, although delays are possible.

The resolution will be the third U.S. version circulated among the council’s five permanent and 10 elected rotating members since early last month.

The new document makes clear that Iraq is in material breach of its obligations, provides a tough inspection regime and threatens “serious consequences” for non-compliance, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But he did not reveal the compromise wording Washington had promised.

France, Russia and China had raised concerns on how to determine whether

Iraq had violated new weapons demands in the resolution that gives U.N. arms inspectors wide latitude in accounting for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday continued his daily telephone diplomacy, speaking to French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and to British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is co-sponsoring the resolution.

U.S. officials worry less about the text being adopted by the Security Council than a series of abstentions that would send a signal to Iraq of divisions within the 15-member body.

Passage of a resolution in the council requires a minimum of nine votes in favor and no veto from any of the five permanent members.

“I think there is growing support in the council. But I don’t have a vote count at this moment,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Tuesday.

“MATERIAL BREACH”

France, backed by Russia, China and other nations, had feared “hidden triggers” in the resolution that would allow the Bush administration to go to war, overthrow Saddam Hussein and then claim the United Nations had authorized it.

The main stumbling block in the U.S.-British draft was warnings that failure by Iraq to make a full declaration on its weapons of mass destruction and interfere in the inspections could amount to “material breach” of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire pact, a legal basis for war.

The United States has proposed that the council “convene” after a negative report from chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix but did not commit itself to a U.N. decision to determine material breach or the right to use force.

In a series of proposals obtained by Reuters of what words would go before and after material breach, France’s suggested language came close to that of the United States. Paris no longer explicitly called for a council decision on what constituted a material breach.

Boucher indicated that exchanges continued among administration officials, who had been divided on modifications in the text, until the last minute.

“It’s an ongoing and evolving discussion, because as we hear from others and hear back from others on things that we have proposed, then we get back in terms of other members of the administration and decide how to go back,” he said.

“So there’s a back and forth discussion and an ongoing process in the U.S. government to make sure that we’re all together as we go forward.”

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