by James Cusick
AS hopes fade of winning a second UN resolution, Britain and the United States are now preparing the ground to argue that both governments already have the implied authority of the UN for conflict.
Sources close to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw yesterday admitted that if ‘there was no prospect of winning a second resolution’ — due to the use of a UN Security Council veto by potentially France, Russia or China — ‘then we may consider abandoning it altogether’.
Washington also yesterday altered its strategy in exactly the same manner when Pres ident George Bush, referring to the existing Security Council resolution 1441, said the US was determined to enforce its terms, which demand that Saddam Hussein surrender his country’s weapons of mass destruction.
Condoleezza Rice, the US national security adviser, called the new draft resolution presented to the UN last week simply ‘an affirmation of the council’s willingness to enforce its own resolution’.
Over the coming week, Tony Blair is expected to reinforce the message that it is the ‘authority of the UN’, already explicit in the unanimously agreed resolution 1441, that must be upheld.
In effect, the Prime Minister is preparing the ground for the political mayhem both inside his party and beyond should a second UN resolution fail to materialise and he takes British forces into war alongside the US.
Key to winning support in the Security Council would have been Iraq’s defiance and obstruction of UN orders to disarm. But yesterday Iraq, reluctantly, agreed to the destruction of four of its outlawed al-Samoud 2 missiles. At a military base just outside Baghdad, bulldozers were brought in to crush the missiles under supervision of the UN.
A potential timetable to destroy the remaining 100-plus al-Samoud 2 missiles was also discussed with the UN. Around 50 of the missiles are with Iraqi forces scattered around the country and will have to be brought in to be destroyed.
And for the first time in a month, Iraq agreed to unsup ervised interviews with Iraqi scientists, a small number of which have taken place already.
Although Dr Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector, described Iraq’s move on its missiles as ‘a very significant piece of real disarmament’ both the US and UK remained sceptical.
If Blix reinforces a signif icant positive shift in Iraq’s level of co-operation when he delivers his latest report to the UN this Friday, it may put the final nail in the coffin for any hope of agreement on a second resolution.
France’s foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said yesterday that the destruction of the missiles ‘confirms that inspectors are getting results’. He said Iraq’s decision to comply was an important step in the disarmament process.
As one of the harshest critics of the US-UK position, and having already demanded inspectors be given more time, it now seems inconceivable that France will now not use its veto in an attempt to avert war.
However, the White House said Iraq’s compliance was ‘propaganda wrapped in a lie inside a falsehood’.
Straw warned the international community that it ‘should not be taken in’ by Saddam. He dismissed Iraq’s promise to destroy all its al-Samoud 2 missiles as ‘a cynical attempt to divide the Security Council’. To end the crisis Straw said Saddam only had to say he was in ‘complete, immediate and full compliance of resolution 1441’.
Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri said: ‘We are co-operating because we want to co-operate, because we think it is to our benefit. We don’t need anyone to tell us to co-operate.’
A senior source in the Foreign Office said that following Blix’s report this Friday: ‘It will probably be towards the end of the following week that the UK-backed second resol ution will be formally put to the Security Council. It is likely we will demand a formal vote, essentially to confront France or whoever and flush out their use of their veto. We would want to make it evident who had halted the resolution. But if there is no prospect of winning, that strategy may be abandoned altogether.’
Meanwhile, Turkey’s parliament, after a day of high drama and confusion, yesterday finally denied US forces use of Turkish territory to launch a northern attack on Iraq. US supply ships and armaments had been waiting outside Turkish ports, with troops in the US also awaiting final authority to fly into Turkey. However, the Turkish parliament will reconvene on the issue this week.
The US — which has promised a massive financial aid and trade package to Turkey — are said to be furious at the potential logistical chaos this will bring to its battle plans. A northern front is regarded as crucial to the prospects of a quick, short war.
©2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd
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