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Bush Wins Hardline UN Deal on Iraq

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Bush wins hardline UN deal on Iraq

Dual victory as Congress falls to Republicans

Julian Borger in Washington

Thursday November 7, 2002

The Guardian

George Bush's presidency emerged triumphant on both foreign and domestic stages yesterday, as a UN deal was effectively brokered on a concerted hardline stance towards Iraq, and after Republicans seized total control of Congress in midterm elections.

Even as news of the election results was coming in the American ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, declared that Washington would force a vote tomorrow on its Iraq resolution, drafted with British support, after nearly two months of negotiations.

The draft allows further security council discussions if Baghdad refuses to comply with comprehensive, unfettered weapons inspections, but it does not commit the US to wait for a new UN resolution before going to war.

US and British officials confidently predicted that France and Russia had in effect agreed to the broad lines of the resolution and that they would win majority support in the security council. Paris and Moscow said they would study the new draft before passing judgment on it.

President Chirac yesterday welcomed changes made in the US draft but called for "certain ambiguities to be removed".

French officials indicated that France would not use its veto, while Washington and London appeared convinced that Russia would tag along once France had made public its acceptance. China, the fifth permanent member of the security council, is widely expected to abstain.

In London, an upbeat Foreign Office said that the back of opposition to a tough resolution on Iraq had been broken. The focus now shifts to Tony Blair's efforts to persuade Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs to support the UN position, on which the prime minister has pledged a great deal of personal political capital.

Mr Blair will portray it as a diplomatic victory for multilateralism over Iraq, and not a blank cheque for an imminent US invasion.

Backbench Labour MPs, along with the Liberal Democrats who remain sceptical of the need for military action, will seek clarification of how any war would be triggered.

With the Bush administration poised to clear the final hurdle in its push for a tough UN resolution tomorrow, attention will now switch to Baghdad where the Iraqi regime will be under pressure to meet all demands or face imminent oblivion. Once the security council adopts the resolution, Baghdad will have seven days to respond. It is expected to accept the terms as refusal would mean instant war.

Within a month of the resolution being passed, Saddam will have to provide a full inventory of all his weapons of mass destruction. If those potential pitfalls are cleared it will then be the job of the arms inspectors to ferret out any biological, chemical or nuclear weapons or research programmes.

Under the terms of yesterday's resolution, the inspectors would have the right to inspect any facility, including palaces - a bone of contention between the Iraqi regime and previous inspection teams. The inspectors would also be able to take any Iraqi out of the country for interview, and to set up exclusion zones and corridors in which the Iraqi army would be forbidden from operating.

The Bush administration's success in corralling security council support on Iraq represents a foreign policy victory to match its resounding result in Tuesday's midterm elections. Mr Bush is now free of many of the constraints on his conservative domestic agenda.

The Republicans recaptured control of the Senate after an 18-month interlude during which the Democrats used a slim majority to foil some of the most controversial elements of the Bush agenda.

With all but two of the Senate's seats decided last night, the Republicans controlled 51 votes in the 100-strong chamber. A last minute surge of support, much of it due to a campaigning blitz by the president himself, toppled Democrats in most of the close Senate races, including the former vice-president Walter Mondale in Minnesota.

The Republicans also strengthened their grip on the House of Representatives, increasing their majority by at least three votes.

The victory immeasurably boosted Mr Bush's authority over his own party and dispelled many of the doubts lingering over his presidency since the 2000 election debacle.

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