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Profile: President Bush Tries Diplomacy One More Time In An Effort To Disarm Iraq Peacefully

Morning Edition: October 22, 2002

U.S. Seeks Diplomacy and Tough Standards

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Bob Edwards.

President Bush says he's trying diplomacy one more time in an effort to disarm Iraq peacefully. The president's latest comments coincided with the submission to the UN Security Council of a modified draft resolution on Iraq. Bush administration officials say it's still a tough resolution that would strengthen the hands of UN weapons inspectors and warns Iraq of consequences if it fails to comply. NPR's Michele Kelemen is here. Good morning.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

Good morning.

EDWARDS: So is the Bush administration changing its tone on Iraq?

KELEMEN: Well, President Bush did say yesterday that his policy is still, as he calls it, regime change. But he had a new twist on this. He told reporters that if Saddam Hussein complies with every UN demand, that would signal the regime has changed. Secretary of State Colin Powell, we've also heard over the weekend, talking about the US goal is disarming Saddam Hussein. And we haven't heard much from the secretary of Defense on this issue lately. So in some ways, the tone is changing but I think it seems to be well timed with the debate at the UN because some permanent Security Council members don't want to see a new resolution just give a green light to a US war to topple Saddam Hussein. So by talking about diplomatic efforts to disarm him now and less about war, it seems to be the Bush administration is trying to calm those fears at the UN.

EDWARDS: How close is the UN to passing a resolution on Iraq?

KELEMEN: Well, Security Council members, the permanent members are supposed to meet again today. Administration officials are hopeful that the five permanent members will accept this revised draft that they introduced yesterday so that it can be presented to the full Security Council at some point this week. So far, we haven't seen much movement on it. French and Russian diplomats are still expressing concerns about it. Today, Russian news reports that officials there are disappointed by the new draft because it's similar to the one the US was circulating before. What we do know about the changes is that the US has dropped the idea that the permanent Security Council members could participate in these UN weapons inspections. The US also dropped language that would have permitted it to use, quote, "all necessary means if Iraq doesn't comply with weapons inspectors." But the language that's still in there that the Bush administration wants in the resolution is that there will be serious consequences if Iraq fails to comply.

EDWARDS: That the green light to war?

KELEMEN: Well, most experts say yes. In addition to warning the serious consequences, the draft also talks about how Baghdad has been in material breech of UN resolution and that's also a phrase that could justify military action. Now the Bush administration has said over and over again that it already has the authority to--from Congress to act as necessary against Iraq. It's basically challenging the UN in a way to remain relevant, saying, you know, `We're going to go it alone if we don't--if you don't act.' But the Bush administration does need this resolution if it's to have allies.

EDWARDS: What about a timetable for Iraq to comply?

KELEMEN: Well, the resolution does give somewhat of a timetable. The time line could set back Pentagon plans for military action. Iraq would have 30 days once the resolution is adopted to give a full accounting of its weapons program, and then the inspectors have time to report on whether or not Iraq is cooperating. And what the French have been asking is that the crisis be dealt with in two stages. The first, you get the weapons inspectors back with a stronger mandate and then they come report on what kind of cooperation they're getting and then the Security Council discusses what kind of consequences it will be. The Bush administration is sounding very frustrated that it's taken this long for this first resolution so they definitely want to get this over with and not have to go back for a second resolution on this.

EDWARDS: Isn't there a feeling elsewhere in the world, particularly in Europe, the US has backed off a bit?

KELEMEN: It has toned down its language in this draft but they are leaving the options open to acting.

EDWARDS: NPR's Michele Kelemen.

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