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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Key Trio Doubt Case For War Against Iraq

Three key members of the UN Security Council -- Russia, France and China -- say they are not yet convinced that an Iraqi declaration this month failed to fully disclose any weapons of mass destruction, an indication that the United States might face an uphill battle building the case for war against Baghdad.

The wait-and-see positions taken by the countries, all veto-holding permanent members of the Security Council, contrast sharply with U.S. President George W. Bush's assertion last week that the 12,000-page weapons declaration from Baghdad was "a long way" from meeting Iraq's obligations. On Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, labeled Iraq's omissions "another material breach" of UN resolutions, but stopped short of declaring it a trigger for war.

While not endorsing the Iraqi report, the three other permanent members of the council are taking a more restrained view, and accentuating Iraq's cooperative attitude toward UN weapons inspectors who have been on the ground for the past month.

Speaking Monday in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Ivan Ivanov seemed to rule out any attack based on the Iraqi regime's behavior so far.

"Any action outside the framework of Resolution 1441 ... can do nothing but complicate the regional security situation," Ivanov said.

Replying to a journalist's question about "hysteria" regarding Iraq in the United States, Ivanov said: "Hysteria is not the best way to resolve a problem, and therefore we will continue to work calmly" within the UN process.

A final report of the weapons inspectors is due Jan. 27, which is emerging as the key date for the United States in deciding whether to attack in order to force Iraqi compliance. Until then, U.S. officials are expected to try to make the case that military intervention is necessary.

But indications are that the Bush administration faces an uphill battle.

In Paris, experts continue to go over Iraq's declaration while diplomats have stuck to a carefully calibrated Iraq policy.

They acknowledge the Iraqi declaration suffers from serious omissions and shortcomings but say they want the United States and its allies to be focused on aggressive UN inspections, not preparations for a military invasion.

"We have said that there are zones of shadow in the declaration," a French diplomatic source said in an interview. "There is no question about that. But we have also said that the work of the inspectors should be the priority. We have not entered into a logic of military action. The defense minister has said there will be no French military participation in an operation without the United Nations."

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that if Iraq is found to have not fully disclosed its weapons programs, the inspectors must be able to force Iraq to disarm.

France pressed the United States to work through the Security Council this fall and give inspections one more chance to force Iraq's disarmament. France also insists that the Security Council must be consulted again before any military strike. But France has not ruled out participating in military action, and most analysts think the government of President Jacques Chirac is likely to join such an operation if it is carried out under the aegis of the United Nations.

Russia shows no sign of acceding to a U.S.-led attack since Iraq filed its report early this month.

"There are questions that still need to be answered, but no one really expected that all answers could be given in one document," Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said. "This is what the inspectors are for. If they have got a question, but their attempts to get an answer to it are obstructed ... then it is a violation and it must be prevented."

Mamedov said UN weapons inspectors have not complained of any Iraq obstruction of their work so far. Their statements "testify to the effectiveness of their work and an existing opportunity to solve the problem ... by peaceful means."

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxun has warned against jumping to conclusions on the Iraqi report, saying China needs more time to study it and that no judgments should be made until the inspectors have been at work longer in Iraq.

Alexander Pekayev, a political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said one of the three reluctant countries might come around to agree to a military operation due to U.S. pressure or its own interests, and then the rest might feel compelled to make it unanimous.