Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finale at Un-United Nations ; as Chief Weapons Inspector Reports to UN, Divisions on Security Council Remain Firm

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Finale at Un-United Nations ; as Chief Weapons Inspector Reports to UN, Divisions on Security Council Remain Firm

Article excerpt

As the UN Security Council meets Friday to hear from chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, it is more divided than ever over Iraq - raising deep questions about the international community's ability to take on the world's knottiest security issues.

Mr. Blix's most recent public pronouncements indicate he will give the council an update that finds "genuine disarmament" is occurring under his inspectors' direction in Iraq. But he will also lament that Iraqi cooperation is still not what is necessary for quick and verifiable completion of the inspectors' task.

Such a mixed finding - by now a Blix hallmark - seems unlikely to sway many votes in the 15-member council or to relieve the stalemate dominating it for the past six weeks. Consequently, the scenario will likely play out that many have expected all along: the United States abandons the UN disarmament process to fight a war with Iraq largely on its own and without a UN mandate. That would be further evidence, experts say, of how some of the world's key multilateral institutions are losing their ability to meet major challenges.

"This is a very serious test of the international security system," says Andrew Kuchins, a foreign-policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "The repercussions will be considerable, but not necessarily irreparable - especially if the war follows the best-case scenario of a short conflict, and the US executes more successful diplomacy for reconstruction."

If the US does go to war with only a small coalition, "the UN will survive, but the Security Council will be tremendously weakened," says James Phillips, a Mideast expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. The Iraq conflict has shaken not just the UN, but "NATO has been weakened; the EU [European Union] is also wounded by its rifts over this," Mr. Phillips adds. "This demonstrates the weakness of collective security and other multilateral arrangements at a time when more countries are looking at these issues from the national-interest perspective."

American officials, in particular Secretary of State Colin Powell, are still claiming publicly that they're optimistic about achieving the minimum nine votes needed to pass the resolution the US, Great Britain, and Spain have introduced to the council. That resolution finds Iraq has "failed" to disarm and indirectly authorizes the use of force to disarm it.

The US and Britain say they will call for a vote next week, although Secretary Powell is still leaving the door open for withdrawing the resolution based on the impact of Blix's report.

But with France and Russia saying they will "not allow" passage at this moment of any resolution that authorizes the use of force - signaling their readiness to use their veto power as permanent council members - any hope of finding the unity on Iraq that reigned briefly last fall looks dim. …

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