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Iraq

Undecideds offer to play peacemaker

©Associated Press
March 14, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- Six uncommitted nations tried Thursday to bridge the deep divide over Iraq at the United Nations with proposals that do not include triggers for war.

Just a day before, White House officials claimed that some of the swing nations on the Security Council -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan -- were supporting the U.S.-backed resolution authorizing military action.

But the initiative by the six countries Thursday demonstrated that they have their own ideas on how to bring together supporters and opponents of the resolution, which sets a March 17 deadline for Saddam Hussein to prove Iraq's commitment to disarm or face war.

With France threatening to veto the resolution and the Bush administration weighing whether to abandon it, the six countries said they weren't interested in discussing a British proposal that would require Hussein to fulfill six disarmament requirements in a short time.

"We are not negotiating the British draft," said Chile's U.N. Ambassador Gabriel Valdes. "We are putting out other ideas. We are going to announce now what we believe."

The ideas include a list of "doable" tasks for Hussein to complete in a what its proponents said was a realistic timeframe to prove Iraq's commitment to disarmament. At the end of that period the council would meet to determine whether Iraq had complied or not, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. There would be no automatic trigger for war.

"We are going to talk, even Saturday and Sunday," Valdes said.

In hopes of gaining votes for the resolution, Britain proposed requiring Hussein to take six steps to avert war, including a television appearance renouncing weapons of mass destruction.

Britain even offered to abandon the March 17 ultimatum if members approved its list of disarmament tests. The resolution would then implicitly threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" if it failed to comply.

But France rejected the proposal Thursday, deepening the fissure in the council.

Germany and Russia also rejected the British proposals, and China was skeptical.

"What is proposed now is just to ask the council to give a green light, a carte blanche, for the use of force," said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov. He said other council members agreed it was an authorization for the use of force.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan said he doubted the British compromise could "lead to consensus."

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was studying the possibility of a summit of a group of interested world leaders who are "searching for a compromise to get us out of this crisis." He said such a summit, with leaders not necessarily on the Security Council, was suggested by Brazil.

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