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Analysis: U.S. Proposes New Language For A U.N. Security Council Resolution On Iraq

All Things Considered: October 21, 2002

U.S. - Iraq

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The United States has revised its proposal for a UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The new version would strengthen the hands of UN weapons inspectors, but it stops short of explicitly authorizing the use of force. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the new language is an attempt to win support from the five permanent Security Council members.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

After five weeks of negotiations on an Iraq resolution, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said today it's time to wrap this up. Washington hopes to put its revised resolution before the full Security Council soon. Today, the five permanent members of the council met behind closed doors to discuss the new US draft. While Washington has toned down some of the controversial language, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer insists there will be zero tolerance if Saddam Hussein violates any of its terms.

Mr. ARI FLEISCHER (White House Press Secretary): The resolution that's being discussed is a very strong resolution. It makes clear that the inspection regime of the '90s will be replaced with a new and much tougher, more effective inspection regime. It also makes clear that there will be serious consequences if Saddam Hussein fails to honor his obligations.

KELEMEN: The US dropped language that would authorize it to use, quote, "all necessary means" if Baghdad doesn't comply with the weapons inspections. France feared that would permit automatic US military action. Now the draft speaks of, quote, "consequences" if Iraq blocks the inspectors; wording that some experts say still could provide legal cover for US military action. Lee Feinstein, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the resolution will be vague enough to be open to interpretation.

Mr. LEE FEINSTEIN (Council on Foreign Relations): Everybody is trying to find a graceful way ahead. So the United States is looking for a resolution which it can interpret as authorizing force; France is looking for a resolution which it will interpret as not an express authorization of force.

KELEMEN: Getting weapons inspectors back to Iraq could delay any military strike the Pentagon may be planning, and Feinstein believes this is a source of debate within the Bush administration. But he adds it's important politically and diplomatically to at least try to get UN support for any action against Iraq.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: The administration is in a bit of a box. On the one hand, it doesn't want to be seen as relying too heavily on UN actions. On the other hand, it clearly benefits from having UN authorization and UN support.

KELEMEN: He says it's no surprise there have been some more conciliatory voices out of the State Department and the White House as diplomats get closer to winning approval for a new UN resolution. Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Bush recently have spoken about war as a last resort. Over the weekend, Powell gave several television interviews and insisted disarming Saddam Hussein is the main goal. President Bush, though, today said regime change is still the priority, because he says he doesn't believe the Iraqi leader will ever honor its UN obligations.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't believe he is going to change. However, if he were to meet all the conditions of the United Nation, the conditions that I have described very clearly in terms that everybody can understand, that in itself will signal the regime has changed.

KELEMEN: UN weapons inspectors are getting ready to resume their work once the Security Council passes a resolution that spells out their mandate. The chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is to discuss his work with Russian officials in Moscow this week. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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