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Arab Allies Urge Iraq to Comply

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Arab allies urge Iraq to comply

NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES

Nov. 9 — As Iraq responded Saturday with bluster to a new U.N. mandate, its allies urged it to accept terms that force Saddam Hussein’s regime to disarm or face possible military action. Official reports said Baghdad was studying the U.N. demands even as Arab League members urged it to comply. President Bush warned Saddam on Friday that the unanimous resolution prompted a “final test” before America and its allies take decisive action.

“DESPITE THAT the Resolution 1441 adopted by the Security Council is bad and unjust, the leadership of Iraq is studying it calmly and will take the necessary decision in the next few days,” the official Iraqi News Agency said Saturday, quoting an official Iraqi source.

Baghdad’s satellite TV channel similarly voiced the leadership’s obvious anger over the measure. “The whole world knows that the approval of this resolution was a result of U.S. blackmail and pressure exerted on the Security Council members,” the TV broadcast said.

Government officials were largely silent on the matter.

But many foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League, meeting in Cairo, urged their Iraqi counterpart to comply with the new multinational mandate, which was drafted by U.S. officials and approved 15-0 by the U.N. Security Council after a long push by American diplomats.

Iraq has until Nov. 15 to decide.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher met with both his Iraqi counterpart, Naji Sabri, and with the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, David Welch, who said the resolution was consistent with Arab League decisions urging Iraq’s compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Sabri gave no hint of how Iraq would respond to the resolution, which also calls for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors with a tougher mandate to seek out hidden weapons.

SURPRISE VOTE

While Iraq has criticized the resolution, Sabri said that, in eight weeks of negotiations, the international community succeeded in diluting what he called U.S. plans for aggression.

“America’s aggressive goal of using the Security Council as a cover for an aggression on Iraq was thwarted by the international community,” Sabri said, referring to the revisions made to secure Russian, French and Chinese approval of the resolution.

The unanimity of Friday’s vote came as a surprise, with last-minute support coming even from Syria, Iraq’s neighbor. Washington and London spent eight weeks trying to get all 15 Security Council members to approve the resolution to send a united message to Saddam.

But Syria had been out of reach until Friday.

Syria had wanted the vote delayed until after this weekend’s meeting in Cairo. But the United States persuaded the council to vote Friday.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, left, said Saturday in Egypt that "America’s aggressive goal of using the Security Council as a cover for an aggression on Iraq was thwarted by the international community."

Syria’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Fayssal Mekdad, said Damascus voted “yes” after assurances from Washington and Paris “that this resolution would not be used as a pretext to strike Iraq.” The resolution also reaffirmed “the central role of the Security Council” and Iraq’s sovereignty, key issues for Syria, he said.

The broad support sends a strong message to Baghdad that the Security Council — divided for years over Iraq — expects full compliance with all U.N. resolutions.

Saddam now has until Nov. 15 to accept the resolution and to comply.

BUSH: ‘OUTCOME DETERMINED’

Bush reiterated Saturday his stern admonishment to Saddam. “This was an important week for our country and for the world,” the president said in his weekly radio address.

He applauded the Friday vote by the U.N. Security Council and laid out his assessment of the terms requiring Iraq to cooperate with U.N. inspectors and dismantle its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities.

“The resolution presents the Iraqi regime with a test, a final test,” Bush said,

That language was echoed Friday in a Rose Garden appearance moments after the 15-0 vote. Bush said, “The outcome of the current crisis is already determined. The full disarmament of weapons of mass destruction will occur. The only question for the Iraqi regime is to decide how.”

Bush, who spurred the council to action with a Sept. 12 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, kept up the pressure on allies. The president, who has already won backing from the U.S. Congress for military action against Iraq, said Saddam must immediately comply with the new resolution. Otherwise, “he will face the severest consequences.”

Such tough talk on Iraq has become a political boon to the president and his allies. Nearly 6 in 10 eligible American voters said Bush’s willingness to go to war with Iraq was a major factor in the GOP victory in last Tuesday’s elections, according to a Newsweek poll released Saturday.

More than 50 percent said Democrats “didn’t offer a clear alternative” on Iraq, according to the poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A close ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was equally blunt, warning that if Iraq defied the United Nations, “we will disarm you by force.”

Secretary General Kofi Annan said Baghdad should comply for the sake of the Iraqi people.

“Iraq has a new opportunity to comply with all these relevant resolutions of the Security Council. I urge the Iraqi leadership for sake of its own people ... to seize this opportunity and thereby begin to end the isolation and suffering of the Iraqi people.”

BREAKTHROUGH THURSDAY

A breakthrough in negotiations came Thursday when France and the United States reached a critical agreement to address French concerns that the resolution could automatically trigger an attack on Iraq.

“This resolution is a success for the Security Council and the United Nations,” said France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-David Levitte. “This success must now become a success for peace.”

But Iraq “must understand that this opportunity is the final one,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the resolution gives international inspectors broad authority to look for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — to check “anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

There are “no hidden triggers” for the automatic use of force against Iraq if it does not comply with the resolution, Negroponte said, emphasizing that should the inspectors report Iraqi violations, the matter would return to the Security Council. The resolution, he said, is “a new powerful mandate” for the weapons inspectors.

WashPost: Now, U.S. faces balancing act

“This resolution does not constrain any member state from acting to defend itself from the threat posed by Iraq ... to the government of Iraq our message is simple: Non-compliance is no longer an option,” he said.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix was preparing to send an advance team to Iraq on Nov. 18, after a nearly four-year absence. He said the unanimous council vote “strengthens our mandate very much.”

U.S. CONCESSIONS

While the United States made some major concessions to critics, the final draft still meets the Bush administration’s key demands: toughening U.N. weapons inspections and leaving the United States free to take military action against Iraq if inspectors say Baghdad isn’t complying.

At the same time, it gives Saddam “a final opportunity” to cooperate with weapons inspectors, holds out the possibility of lifting 12-year-old sanctions imposed after Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and reaffirms the country’s sovereignty.

The United States had tweaked its draft several times to account for French and Russian concerns over hidden triggers that could automatically launch an attack on Iraq.

In a key provision that would declare Iraq in “material breach” of its U.N. obligations, the United States changed wording that would have let Washington determine on its own whether Iraq had committed an infraction. The new wording leaves the assessment with U.N. weapons inspectors.

STRICT TIMELINE

According to a strict timeline in the resolution, Iraq would have seven days to accept the resolution’s terms and 30 days to declare all its chemical, biological and nuclear programs. Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said Iraq might have difficulty making a declaration of its large petrochemical industry in that time, but the United States decided against giving Baghdad more time.

Blix has said an advance team of inspectors would be on the ground within 10 days. Inspectors would have up to 45 days to actually begin work, and must report to the council 60 days later on Iraq’s performance.

Inspectors will have “unconditional and unrestricted access” to all sites, including eight presidential compounds where surprise inspections have been barred.

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