Continued deadlock in the Council could have serious consequences for Britain and the United States in any future confrontations with Iraq. Work was continuing on a draft text last night, and some diplomats held out the hope that a resolution could be adopted today.
As drafted by Britain, with clear encouragement from the US, initial versions of the resolution were designed to impart new solidity to Mr Annan's agreement. This promises UN inspectors access to eight presidential sites in Iraq so long as they are chaperoned by diplomats. More importantly, London and Washington are seeking a resolution that would be a stage-setter for instant military retaliation should Saddam Hussein violate the Annan agreement. In that regard, however, their shared enthusiasm for a resolution may now be about to backfire.
When Mr Annan departed for Iraq, Washington calculated that whether or not it succeeded, his mission would make any future military strikes against Baghdad easier to justify. Judging by events in the Security Council, the opposite may turn out to be true.
With Russia in the lead, several Council members were still attempting last night to insert wording that would make it clear no action could be taken to punish Iraq for violating the Annan agreement without additional consultations occurring first in the Council. It was not certain yesterday whether Washington could accept that military action be preceded by Council deliberations.