Washington tells Peking that pressure must be kept up on Saddam

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The Independent Online
With discussion on Russia's proposals for solving the stand-off with Iraq stalled in the UN Security Council, the United States is applying all its diplomatic leverage to prevent any dilution of the responsibilities of Unscom, the UN committee set up to oversee the disarming of Iraq.

In Vancouver, where large numbers of White House and State Department staff have decamped for this week's Asia-Pacific economic summit, the US is using bilateral meetings to press home its view that UN must not bend to Iraqi pressure.

The US has paid particular attention to China, which chairs the UN Security Council until the end of this week. At a meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said nothing short of Iraq's full compliance with UN resolutions, including inspections of all suspected weapons facilities, would be acceptable to Washington.

US officials have threatened to veto any Security Council decision that would weaken the original resolutions.

Over the weekend, William Cohen, the US Defense Secretary, cited satellite evidence that Iraq was still trying to evade inspections and repeated the Americans' view that sanctions cannot be lifted until Iraq opened all its suspect installations to inspection.

Russia has urged that a timetable be set for lifting sanctions to offer Iraq "light at the end of the tunnel".

China appears to lean to that view. After the Qian-Albright meeting, Chinese sources in Vancouver said Peking thought it important that a channel be kept open to Iraq, because "without dialogue there can be no co-operation".

President Clinton was due to meet the Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, yesterday.