The continued wrangling over the proposed new resolution came as Iraq failed to provide adequate assurances to allow an advance party of UN weapons inspectors to go to Baghdad as planned on 19 October. Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Security Council on 15 October that he still had no agreement with Iraq on several key issues, including helicopter flights, conditions for interviews with Iraqi weapons experts and permission for overflights by surveillance aircraft.

The comments from Blix indicate that the inspectors are unlikely to return to Baghdad until agreement has been reached on a new UN resolution. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has made clear that Washington is not prepared to back down on its demand for a single resolution. However, it has indicated that it is prepared to soften the terms of its original draft. France has insisted that there should be no question of military action being taken against Iraq unless the UN inspectors issue an explicit report stating that Iraq has not complied with the resolution.

Iraq has argued that there is no need for a new resolution, but has not ruled out co-operating with one. ‘If the Security Council issues a resolution that contradicts what we had agreed on…we will take a position regarding it then,’ deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council Izzat Ibrahim said on 16 October.

Ibrahim was speaking after the previous day’s referendum had resulted in a 100 per cent yes vote for President Saddam Hussein to remain in power for seven more years. ‘This is Iraq, and this is the people of Iraq,’ said Ibrahim. ‘How will America fight this great people?’