US to seek Security Council vote on Iraq resolution tomorrow

 

The United States yesterday tabled its third revised draft UN resolution inside two months on disarming Iraq and said that it would finally seek a vote from the 15-member Security Council tomorrow.

The text was revised after France and Russia objected to hidden "triggers" which could result in an immediate American invasion of Iraq.

The resolution calls on weapons inspectors to report immediately to the Security Council any material breach of Iraq's obligations and threatens "serious consequences" in the event of continued violations.

The Irish delegation is reported to be "very pleased" at the progress made towards getting united support for the resolution, but it did seek some changes to the text.

It is understood that Ireland asked for the removal of a demand that Iraq should confirm within seven days that it will comply fully with the resolution. Under the text, Iraq will have a deadline of 30 days to provide the UN with full data on its chemical, biological and nuclear programmes.

The resolution calls for the Security Council to convene immediately "to consider the situation and the need for full compliance" upon receipt of any report of a material breach or a negative report from the inspectors.

The wording would allow the US to unilaterally report what it considers to be a material breach and it does not bind America to a second resolution authorising military action.

The revised text retained the controversial clause "Iraq has been, and remains, in material breach of its obligations".

France and Russia argued that the words could be construed as saying that the February 1991 Gulf War ceasefire no longer holds, leaving the US free to attack Iraq.

The new draft said, however, that the Security Council would "afford Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations". In a concession to Russia, a paragraph was added indicating that UN sanctions will be lifted if Iraq co-operates.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, and the chief UN weapons inspector, Dr Hans Blix, joined Security Council members for the 90-minute closed-door session yesterday. The council will meet again today.

Russia and France said that the new text moved closer to their own positions. Norway, Colombia and Bulgaria yesterday indicated that they would back the resolution, which needs the support of nine members.