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France went on the offensive against the United States, unveiling a plan to strengthen weapons inspections to counter the expected US push for a UN resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein. The French proposal presented Tuesday calls for tripling the number of inspectors to make inspections more targeted and intrusive, thereby increasing their effectiveness. There are currently about 110 inspectors examining Iraq's chemical, biological and long-range missile programs, and nine nuclear inspectors. (Getty Images)...

 

 

 

 


France Proposes More Iraq Arms Monitors

The Associated Press, Wed 12 Feb 2003

UNITED NATIONS (AP) France went on the offensive against the United States, unveiling a plan to strengthen weapons inspections to counter the expected U.S. push for a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein.

The French proposal presented Tuesday calls for tripling the number of inspectors to make inspections more targeted and intrusive, thereby increasing their effectiveness. There are currently about 110 inspectors examining Iraq's chemical, biological and long-range missile programs, and nine nuclear inspectors.

France also called for significant reinforcement of security units, presumably U.N. security officers, to monitor suspicious sites; more Arabic translators; mobile customs teams to check goods entering Iraq; stepped-up aerial surveillance; a U.N. coordinator in Iraq and a new intelligence unit in New York.

France said U.N. inspectors should draw up a list of unresolved disarmament issues in order of importance and set a time frame to find the answers.

``It is important to push the Iraqis up against a wall and not leave them any way out regarding the questions which they must answer and on which really active cooperation is expected,'' a French policy paper said.

The proposal has the backing of Russia, Germany, Mexico and several other Security Council members who believe Iraq can still be disarmed peacefully. The United States and Britain dismissed the French plan.

Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix said tripling the number of inspectors could be useful but he said ``it still remains vital that you have ... good cooperation from the Iraqis on substance.''

Blix and top nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, fresh from weekend talks in Baghdad, will present their latest assessments of Iraq's cooperation especially in the critical area of providing evidence about its weapons programs to the Security Council on Friday.

The council is badly divided over how much more time to give the inspections. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the idea of strengthened inspections ``a recipe for procrastination and delay.''

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said: ``If the Iraqis would cooperate with the Security Council's latest resolution, then that's exactly what we would have tougher inspections.''

Council diplomats said Britain, the United States' closest ally, might introduce a second resolution as early as Friday that would authorize military action against Iraq.

American officials have made clear that President Bush intends to use the inspectors' reports on Friday to force a decision from the council: Back the U.S. push to disarm Saddam or stand aside as Bush leads a coalition to do so.

Blix said it's up to the council to decide whether to continue inspections.

But he noted that inspectors returned just over two months ago, after a four-year absence, and ``it's a little short to pull it today.''

 


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