Decision on Iraqi Disarmament Divides Security Council

Article excerpt

AS WEAPONS INSPECTIONS continued in Iraq, permanent members of the UN Security Council submitted competing proposals February 24 intended to address Baghdad's failure to disarm. A U.S.-British draft resolution states that Iraq has failed to comply with its disarmament obligations and would likely pave the way for military action. A memorandum submitted to the council by France and Russia is intended to slow the rush to war, calling for strengthened inspections as a means of achieving disarmament without using force. (See pages 34-35.)

Formally introduced by the United Kingdom and co-sponsored by the United States and Spain, the draft resolution states that Iraq "has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by Resolution 1441." That resolution, adopted November 8, gave Iraq a "final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations" as set out by Security Council resolutions stretching back to the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The United States has previously said that Iraq is in material breach of the resolution but has not formally submitted the matter to the Security Council before.

The draft resolution focuses on Iraq's failure to fully explain its weapons programs. Resolution 1441 required Iraq to submit a "currently accurate, full, and complete declaration of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes." Iraq turned over a 12,000-page declaration to UN officials in Baghdad December 7, but it contained little useful information and left many questions unanswered. The draft resolution says this declaration contains "false statements and omissions"-a breach of Resolution 1441.

The draft resolution references Resolution 1441's warning that Baghdad would "face serious consequences" if it continues to ignore its disarmament obligations-a phrase widely viewed as including the use of force-but does not include stronger language. The Bush administration has repeatedly said that it will go to war without UN authorization if necessary, and a State Department official interviewed February 27 said the United States does not believe that a new resolution is required to use force.

A UN official interviewed February 27 said that the new resolution was intended to provide political cover for leaders whose citizens oppose military action.

The Russian-French proposal, submitted as a memorandum and not as a formal resolution, states that military force should be a "last resort" and that force should not yet be used because there is "no evidence" that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It also notes that inspections have only recent begun operating at full capacity but "have already produced results." The memorandum also says, however, that "inspections...cannot continue indefinitely. Iraq must disarm," adding that Baghdad's cooperation, although improving, is not "yet fully satisfactory."

The memorandum also argues that preserving Security Council unity and increasing pressure on Iraq "are of paramount importance." It proposes that the inspectors submit a program of work that lists and clearly defines specific disarmament tasks. Such a report is already required under Resolution 1284, which created the current weapons inspection team-the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)-in 1999. UNMOVIC is currently assembling the list, the UN official said in a February 27 interview.

The memorandum suggests "further measures to strengthen inspections," including increasing staff and bolstering technical capabilities. Additionally, it proposes a new timeline mandating regular reporting to the Security Council about inspectors' progress, as well as a progress report to be submitted 120 days after the program of work is adopted.

China supports the French and Russian position, according to a February 27 Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. The stark division between the Security Council's permanent members is reflected in a split among the council's 10 rotating members. …