U.S. Pressures UN for New Draft

UNITED NATIONS -- Impatient at weeks of inconclusive talks, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush stepped up pressure on the United Nations to adopt its resolution on Iraqi disarmament despite continued French and Russian objections.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte introduced a draft resolution Wednesday to the full 15-member Security Council but declined to give a deadline for a vote on proposals that indirectly threaten military action if Iraq does not cooperate with UN weapons inspections.

However, some diplomats expect Washington to try for a vote late next week. The council meets Friday and then hears from chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix on Monday.

For some council members, the distribution of the U.S. text was the first time they had seen the complete resolution, which has been toned down but still opens the way to war.

In Wednesday's revised text, Washington dropped a proposal to send troops on UN inspections.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was open to more changes but emphasized that finding Iraq in "material breach" of UN resolutions and warning Baghdad of "serious consequences" would be kept in the draft.

Both Russia and France, which have veto rights, believe this language gives the United States legal cover for a military strike without an explicit authorization of force.

"It's not a fiat that we have put down," Powell told reporters accompanying him to Los Cabos, Mexico, for a summit of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group.

"We will listen to those ideas, but we can't walk away from basic principles," he said late Wednesday.

Negroponte, who has led talks among the four other council members with veto power, also said negotiations were not over.

But he said: "Time is going by. I think we all feel the moment has come to give an added urgency to this question."

Russia immediately opposed the U.S. text and France raised strong reservations, but Britain said it would be a co-sponsor. All three nations, along with the United States and China, have veto power in the 15-member council.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials appeared confident that France, Russia and China would not use their veto rights.

To be adopted, a Security Council resolution requires nine votes in favor, one more than a majority among its 15 members, and no veto from any of the five permanent members.

"We cannot agree to automaticity in the use of force," Russian UN Ambassador Sergei Lavrov told reporters. He said he could not agree to "load inspectors, against their wishes, with unimplementable mandates."

The Russian government has questioned whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and if any force should be threatened in the first place.

France said it would agree with whatever mandate Blix thought necessary. Ambassador Jean-David Levitte told council members that Paris still had strong reservations about hidden "triggers" that would give the United States the right to use force without further council consultations, French envoys said.