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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Council Should Take Lead From Canada

Two weeks ago, Canada suggested giving Iraq a list of demands and a deadline of the end of March to comply or face a United Nations-authorized military action to force it to disarm. It was a good proposal then, although the United States and Britain dismissed it out of hand. It remains a good proposal, one that might let Washington and London round up the nine votes needed for the Security Council to act on its own resolution to disarm Iraq.

Britain and the United States have begun to show some flexibility. First, they amended their original proposition and set a March 17 deadline for Iraq to demonstrate compliance with UN disarmament resolutions. Then, with Britain leading and Washington reluctantly tagging along, they indicated that date could be pushed back. Both countries also heeded requests from uncommitted nations with Security Council seats that Iraq be given benchmarks to meet. These should include a clear means of verifying that disarmament has taken place.

In return for those compromises, France should say whether there are any conditions under which it would back military action against Iraq or if it would use its veto power no matter what, as President Jacques Chirac said Monday. If France maintains that position, it should explain why it joined November's 15-0 Security Council vote to give Iraq a "final opportunity" to meet a dozen years of UN disarmament demands or "face serious consequences."

Iraq responds only to the threat of force and then only at the last minute. It needs a deadline for compliance so it won't be able to wait until other countries lose interest, as they have before.

With the prospect of a war unpopular around the globe, Britain pushed for delay to address opposition not just from the average Briton but from many members of Prime Minister Tony Blair's own party and some Cabinet members.

With 300,000 troops massing near Iraq or on their way there, war certainly seems inevitable, but it doesn't have to be. The United States risks being branded as the aggressive and arrogant superpower that disregards the wishes of the international community. Opponents of war on the Security Council risk being branded as Saddam Hussein appeasers.

There's a tremendous amount for both sides to lose, and that should create great incentive to compromise.

If it takes more time to win Security Council agreement on a demand that Iraq disarm or be forcibly disarmed then the United States should take the time. A U.S.-led invasion without UN sanction ought not to happen. The UN, then, had better come up with a viable alternative, and fast.

This comment appeared as an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.