The tortuous process of drafting a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq looks set to reach a conclusion by the end of the first week of November, following intensive discussions on wording between France and the US. Differences between the two permanent members were said to have narrowed to just six words after a round of talks on 30 October. France wants to insert the phrase 'when established by the Security Council' into the section stating what would happen if Iraq failed to comply with the resolution. France, China and Russia have been at pains to ensure that the resolution should not turn into a trigger for unilateral US military action against Iraq.
France had originally favoured the drafting of two resolutions - one setting up the frame of reference for UN weapons inspectors, the other dealing with the consequences of non-compliance. The US has been pushing for a single resolution, including the provision for taking action against Iraq. French and US officials now say that a compromise has been worked out, whereby the UN Security Council would meet to consider the situation in the event of Iraq not co-operating with UN inspectors.
The Security Council is expected to vote on the new resolution after the 5 November US mid-term elections.
Chief UN inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed Elbaradei met US President Bush and other senior administration officials on 30 October, in a move denounced by Baghdad as interference in the UN officials' mission. Blix has indicated that he supports the idea of Iraq being told that there would be consequences for any lack of co-operation with the inspectors. However, he has emphasised that the inspectors should not be required to make decisions on what those consequences should be. 'Our job is to report, and the decision on whether there is a war or peace reaction - that is for the [security] council and its members,' Blix said on 29 October.