Tough talk on Iraq as US pushes for new resolution

04 October 2002

As US diplomats lobbied for support for a draft of a hardline UN resolution on Iraq in early October, Baghdad said it would not accept any new mandate and was prepared to fight. Despite an earlier Iraqi offer to re-admit weapons inspectors on the basis of existing resolutions, Washington refused to take 'yes' for an answer. 'We will not be satisfied with Iraqi half-truths, Iraqi compromises or Iraqi efforts to get us back in the same swamp,' US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 1 October. 'Everyone understands that the old regime did not work.'

Permanent UN Security Council members France, Russia and China have expressed unease about the uncompromising language of the US draft, which demands an 'acceptable and currently accurate' declaration from Baghdad of its weapons capabilities. The resolution would authorise any UN member state to employ military force should Iraq make any 'false statements or omissions' or otherwise fail to co-operate with the UN. French President Jacques Chirac said he was 'totally hostile' to the text as it provided for 'automatic military intervention' in Iraq.

Despite reports that the UK was backing a French proposal for two separate and more moderate resolutions, in public statements the British government echoed the uncompromising rhetoric from Washington. 'The terms of the draft elements are still under discussion in the Security Council,' a Foreign Office spokesman told MEED on 3 October. 'But there is a strong preference for one tough resolution'. Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that this resolution should allow Saddam Hussein no room for manoeuvre. 'It is necessary to have a tough resolution because what is absolutely clear is that the previous [inspection] regime was not enough to get the job done.The only way to avoid military action is to comply with the international community's demands.'

As the head of the UN inspections team Hans Blix prepared to brief Security Council members on the terms of an agreement reached with Baghdad on a new round of inspections, Iraq accused Washington of spoiling for a fight. 'This proposal of the United States is unacceptable, not only by Iraq, it's unacceptable by the Security Council because there is no need for a new resolution,' deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz told Turkish Television on 2 October. 'Even if the Americans attack Iraq we will fight very effectively. Of course we may suffer losses of material and of human life, but in the end they will not achieve their aims.'

President Bush moved a step closer to securing congressional support for a war. Leaders of the House of Representatives agreed a resolution permitting him to use US armed forces 'as necessary and appropriate' to defend the country against any security threat posed by Iraq. Although he has yet to strike a deal with the Democrat-controlled Senate, Bush warned that the use of force could become unavoidable: 'The [Iraqi] regime will know that full compliance with all UN Security Council demands is the only choice and the time remaining for that choice is limited. Saddam must disarm - period.'

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