Setbacks force second UN resolution rethink
JASON BEATTIE AND JAMES HALL
BRITAIN and the United States were last night forced to reconsider their strategy for war on Iraq after Russia indicated it would veto a second United Nations resolution and doubts grew that wavering Third World countries would back it.
The push to win UN Security Council support for a further resolution appeared to be in jeopardy. There was speculation at Westminster that the government might prefer to abandon the resolution if it was unable to garner sufficient support rather than see it voted down.
At the foreign affairs select committee yesterday, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, argued that resolution 1441 already gave ‘‘sufficient legal authority’’ to justify military action against Saddam Hussein. And in a pointed warning to France and Germany, Mr Straw said the world would ‘‘reap the whirlwind’’ if the US was forced to take unilateral action.
Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, said that his country was extremely unlikely to abstain and would take a "clear position" in the Security Council vote. He reiterated his opposition to any measure which would open the way for military force.
In a further sign that the diplomatic battle was being lost, Cameroon, a temporary member of the UN security Council, suggested it would oppose a second resolution. The country is one of those key nations which needs to be persuaded.
Ironically, support among the public for UK involvement in a war on Iraq has begun to pick up again, according to a poll released today.
Support for British troops taking part in a war has now risen to 75 per cent, up from 61 per cent in January.
A second resolution needs the backing of nine out of 15 members of the Security Council. So far, only Spain and Bulgaria are backing Britain and the US. Any one of the five permanent Security Council members can veto it, and now Russia is joining France in indicating it will do so.
Publicly, Downing Street is insisting it remains Tony Blair’s "expectation" that the 15-member Security Council would come round and support a new resolution.
But officials acknowledged they faced a difficult set of negotiations over the next few days. And the push for a second resolution is looking an increasingly risky strategy. While the British and the US government feel they already have the required UN backing to inflict "serious consequences" on Iraq, that would be lost if they lose a second resolution. And the Prime Minister would be left facing a massive dilemma if he had to go to war without the authorisation of a new UN mandate.
Mr Ivanov, arriving in London for talks with Mr Straw, was in an uncompromising mood, saying Russia remained opposed to war and was not prepared to sit on the sidelines to allow a resolution to go through.
"Russia will not support any decision that would directly or indirectly open the way to war with Iraq," he told the BBC.
"Abstaining is not a position Russia can take. We have to have a clear position and we are for a political solution."
In Cameroon, an aide to the foreign minister said yesterday his country was opposed to war against Iraq and that the weapon inspectors should be given more time.
"Cameroon cannot support US ambitions to dominate and dictate to the rest of the world," he said, adding that unilateral US action would be very regrettable.
Angola, another crucial UN vote, also looks likely to snub the US and Britain and vote against war.
The sign of increasing government frustration was obvious at the foreign affairs select committee yesterday, when Mr Straw declared military action was already justified by resolution 1441.
He said: "I say to France and Germany - and our other European colleagues - take care, because just as America helps to define and influence our policies, so what we do in Europe helps define and influence American policies.
"We will reap the whirlwind if we push the United States into a unilateral position in which they are the centre of a unipolar world."
Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, made it clear his country was in no mood to hang around to wait for UN approval and that time was running out for efforts to prevent war on Iraq.
He added that the US would not start any action until after the report of Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the weapons inspectors, on Friday, and would prefer to secure a second resolution .
But he made clear that the US was ready to go alone - or with a "coalition of the willing" - if UN support could not be achieved.
Asked how long Washington would wait, Mr Powell told Channel 4 News: "We’ll wait and see what they say on Friday and then I would say ... we’re not talking a long period of time.
"I don’t want to get pinned down on days or weeks, but certainly I think next week we would have to give very serious consideration as to what the next step would be."
He acknowledged going to war without a second resolution would create "political difficulties" for Mr Blair.
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