Analysis: Second U.N. Resolution May Be Needed To Proceed With Force Against Iraq

All Things Considered: January 31, 2003

Bush and Blair Confer on Iraqi Arms Inspections

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

LYNN NEARY, host:

And I'm Lynn Neary.

President Bush and his closest ally on the Iraq crisis, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, today repeated what's become a mantra for Western leaders in recent days: Time is running out for Saddam Hussein to disarm peacefully. At a joint news conference at the White House, both said a decision on whether to go to war will be made in weeks, not months, and Prime Minister Blair made clear he believes Saddam Hussein is violating his UN obligations.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Britain): The judgment has to be at the present time that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the inspectors and, therefore, is in breach of the UN resolution, and that's why time is running out.

NORRIS: Some key allies want to see the UN weapons inspectors given more time. They argue that another UN Security Council resolution is needed to authorize the use of force. Blair supports another resolution, and today President Bush endorsed the idea with some reservations.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Should the United Nations decide to pass a second resolution, it'd be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein. But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution, and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm for the sake of peace, we, along with others, will go disarm Saddam Hussein.

NORRIS: NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now.

Michele, does the US need the second resolution?

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

Well, as you heard from President Bush, the administration believes it doesn't need it because of the Security Council Resolution 1441, which says that Iraq will face serious consequences should it fail to disarm. On the other hand, opinion polls both here and in Europe are showing that public support would be much greater if the UN does pass another resolution, if the US goes and stays in the UN arena. And that's, of course, crucial for Prime Minister Blair because he faces a lot of opposition at home, and it's important for the Bush administration to win over more allies as we head into this. So the phrase I'm hearing a lot now is that another resolution would be desirable, but not necessary.

NORRIS: But what would this do to the time line?

KELEMEN: Not much, really. I mean, remember, these two men today were talking about weeks and not months, and it's frankly going to take weeks to get US and British forces in place, ready for any potential attack on Iraq. Also in the diplomatic front in the next few weeks, we're going to see Secretary of State Colin Powell go to the UN. He's going to lay out the administration's argument that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. And then on February 14th, top inspectors are going to go back to give another report on their work. Administration officials say at that point they're going to take the temperature of the Security Council to see if they're ready to pass a resolution either authorizing the use of force specifically or holding Iraq in breach of Resolution 1441.

NORRIS: The council looks pretty divided now. Any chance the US can win enough support in such a short period of time?

KELEMEN: Well, one problem I see is that the Security Council members interpret Resolution 1441 quite differently. There are some fundamental differences. The Bush administration, as we heard Secretary of State Colin Powell repeat again today, says all the council members understood at the time that Iraq will face military action, and that the inspectors are not there on a scavenger hunt. They're there just to verify Iraqi disarmament. Tony Blair also repeated that mantra today. He said the inspectors are not a detective agency.

A French diplomat, on the other hand, said 1441 was intended to give the inspectors a real chance, and that the whole Security Council would have to vote on whether the Iraqis are complying. So I think there is a fundamental difference. The French and some other critics of US policy say inspectors could be a deterrent to Saddam Hussein. President Bush again today said the Iraqi leader's not someone that can be contained; we have to deal with this threat now.

NORRIS: Thanks, Michele.

KELEMEN: You're welcome.

NORRIS: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

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