05 Mar 2003 02:40 GMT
Kofi Annan pleads for Iraq compromise
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Despite U.S. confidence it would get
enough votes for a U.N. resolution authorising war with Iraq, positions
have hardened with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan pleading for a
"I am increasingly optimistic that if it comes to a vote,
we will be able to make a case that will persuade most of the members of
the Security Council to vote for the resolution," U.S. Secretary of
State Colin Powell told the French television station France 2 in an
While the United States is given a good chance to get the
minimum nine votes needed for adoption in the 15-member council, diplomats
believe that point has not been reached. There is also a strong chance
France and Russia would use their veto power to kill the measure.
"They haven't done enough horse trading yet to get everyone
on board," said Nancy Soderberg, a former senior official at the U.S.
mission to the United Nations.
No date for a vote is set, but U.S. and British officials have
said they want to push for one next week.
Russian Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov said flatly that Moscow
would not abstain on the resolution and warned it could use its veto
"The Iraq question is precisely that sort of question when
permanent members of the Security Council should not abstain," Ivanov
In New York, Moscow's U.N. ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, told a
news conference he thought there was still a chance to avoid war, adding:
"I do not think the council is going to approve the use of
VILLEPIN COMING TO UN, STRAW MAY NOT
France and Germany, fighting to head off the resolution, told
Security Council members their foreign ministers, Dominique de Villepin
and Joschka Fischer, would attend a crucial council session on Friday when
U.N. weapons inspectors are due to deliver their latest report on Iraqi
disarmament. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara will also attend.
Sources in London said British Foreign Minister Jack Straw
planned to come to New York but British officials at the United Nations
said later no decision had been made. Spain also is still undecided as is
Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Annan, at his monthly lunch with U.N. Security Council members,
appealed for unity and compromise among the major powers -- the United
States and Britain pushing a resolution to authorise war and France,
Russia and China opposing it, diplomats said.
He also asked Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker to brief him
on a proposal that would set benchmarks or tests for Iraqi disarmament by
March 28. If Iraq failed to adhere to them the council would face the
possibility of war.
"He is supportive of the concept behind it,"
Heinbecker told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "I don't know
if he would endorse every detail of it. but the idea of a compromise
between the two positions is what he is talking about."
The Canadian suggestions have been reviewed closely by undecided
council members but the United States has rejected them for prolonging the
inspection process. Russia was said to have looked at the plan carefully
but France rejected it for leaving open the possibility of war.
Annan told reporters earlier that war was a "human
catastrophe" and should be considered only when all possibilities for
a peaceful settlement were exhausted.
He also called Baghdad's start of missile destruction a
"The inspectors have to report the facts, and as I've
indicated this is a positive development." Annan said,
Iraq, since Saturday, destroyed 19 of more than 100 Al Samoud 2
missiles as ordered by chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix because their range
exceeded U.N. limits.
The United States has four publicly committed votes in the
15-member council. France, Russia and China, which have veto power, are
opposed and six other nations are on the fence, being wooed by both sides.
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has dismissed Iraq's
efforts as "the mother of all distractions." U.S. President
George W. Bush has said the missiles are the "tip of the
iceberg" of Iraq's illegal arsenal.
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