Resolution is timed with questions over weapons
Saturday 22 February 2003
Britain and America will introduce a second draft United Nations resolution authorising war against Iraq on Monday the same day Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, presents a list of some 30 unanswered questions on Baghdad's suspected banned arms programmes.
The growing diplomatic pressure on Saddam Hussein came as Washington made clear it had enough forces in theatre to invade Iraq. Turkey, meanwhile, signalled it would probably permit the deployment of up to 40,000 American troops, for a second front attack on Iraq from the north.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, declared that the Pentagon had "ample" forces ready to move against President Saddam. "We are at a point where if the President takes that decision, the Department of Defence is prepared and has the capability and the strategy to do that," he said. There are at least 150,000 US and British forces in position long acknowledged by the Pentagon as the minimum number to provide General Tommy Franks, who would have military command in any war, a full range of options.
The attack will await the outcome of a second resolution in New York, given the acute desire of Tony Blair in particular to have UN cover for a military campaign that is otherwise bitterly opposed by public opinion.
Although some countries would like to turn the Blix list into an ultimatum, the new resolution will not contain either benchmarks or the specific deadline for which Britain had pressed. It is likely to declare that Iraq is in "further material breach" of Security Council resolution 1441, and that it faces "serious consequences" diplomatic code for war. Diplomats expect Britain and the US to force a vote by mid-March.
This weekend, George Bush will discuss the final draft at his ranch in Texas with Jose Maria Aznar, the Prime Minister of Spain, which, with Bulgaria, is one of just two other council members supporting military action. The US would like to enlist Madrid as co-sponsor of a text making clear that Iraq has failed to take its last chance.
Even so, American officials acknowledged that they still face an uphill battle to secure the required nine-vote majority on the 15-member council, and avoid a veto from France, Russia or China, the three permanent members who want the inspectors to be given more time. But Mr Bush has repeatedly stressed he will go ahead even without UN sanction, relying on a "coalition of the willing" to disarm Iraq.
Taha Yassin Ramadan, Iraq's Vice-President, said his country was ready for talks with the US if it abandoned its "aggression". He also said the US would have to cease "interference in internal affairs."
The world body is also increasing scrutiny of the possible nuclear ambitions of Iran, another member of the "axis of evil" identified by Mr Bush. Mohamed al-Baradei, head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, toured the Natanz nuclear plant yesterday, which Tehran says will be used for energy production but which Washington maintains is part of a nuclear weapons programme. Meanwhile, in a letter to Iraq, Dr Blix demanded that Iraq begin to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles, engines and numerous component parts.
The Pentagon is also sending 3,000 troops to the southern Philippinesto try to stamp out the radical Islamic group Abu Sayyaf, which may have links with al-Qa'ida.
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