US and UK to set disarmament deadline

14 March 2003
The US and UK are to put forward a new UN resolution within the next few days setting Saddam Hussein a 17 March deadline to fulfil a specific list of disarmament criteria or face war. The resolution will force Security Council members to state positively that Iraq has complied with its obligations if they are to oppose military action, by stating: 'The Council decides that Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by Resolution 1441 unless, on or before 17 March 2003, the Council decides that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active co-operation with its disarmament obligations.' A specific checklist of points on which Iraq must comply is to be set out, based on a report circulated to the UN by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on 8 March. These are: that Iraq accounts for the Al-Hussein missile system and 50 Scud B missiles which the inspectors said may have been retained; explains the import of 131 Volga engines for its Al-Samoud 2 missile system, the discovery of 231 such engines and documentation for a further 150; accounts for 550 mustard gas shells and 350 R-400 bombs; explains what happened to 80 tonnes of mustard gas and quantities of VX, Sarin and Soman gas. A vote would be called on the resolution within the next week.

While President Bush has made it clear in recent speeches that he does not regard a second UN resolution necessary before taking military action against Iraq, his closest ally on the issue, UK Primes Minister Tony Blair is under heavy domestic pressure to secure UN backing. An ICM poll published on 9 March found that 68 per cent of Britons now favour military action against Saddam Hussein, but that 80 per cent of these wanted a second resolution. The UK's Observer newspaper the same day reported that up to 30 UK government ministers were considering resigning in protest if Blair went ahead with military action without UN backing. On 9 March, International Development Secretary Clare Short became the first cabinet minister to threaten resignation. Speaking on the BBC's Westminster Hour radio programme, Short said: 'I will not uphold a breach of international law or this undermining of the UN.' She also launched a damning indictment of Blair's management of the Iraq crisis, alleging that he had been 'reckless with our government, reckless with his own future, position and place in history'.

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