A Diplomat's Work Is Never Done

GENERIC Bush Saddam Hussein UN weapons Iraq CBS/AP

CBS News State Dept. Reporter Charles M. Wolfson finds out what it took for Colin Powell to negotiate the Iraq resolution with members of the United Nations.


The most senior members of the President's foreign policy team are never really off duty.

Just ask Secretary of State Colin Powell, who spoke to a group of journalists earlier this week of the "enormous" amounts of time he had spent convincing other foreign ministers to sign onto the U.S.- UK resolution in the Security Council. Powell recalled a rather important family occasion last weekend, saying he was on the phone "…up until ten minutes before my daughter's wedding on Saturday — the phone was only shut down when I started down the aisle — I have spent an enormous amount of time working with all of my colleagues…." That call was with Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister.

Since September 12th when President George W. Bush challenged the United Nations to act in support of past resolutions which Iraq has ignored, he and his secretary of state have had to work overtime to guarantee passage of a new resolution. From the beginning their biggest worry was a veto from Moscow and/or Paris and many concessions had to be made.

Powell alone, say his senior aides, made "well over 150" phone calls to various foreign ministers concerning the pending resolution. In various diplomatic settings, Powell has also met with over one hundred foreign ministers to discuss the merits of the tough kind of resolution the Bush administration was pushing.

As in all negotiations, concessions were made. The French and Russians used the threat of a veto to ensure language in the resolution which they feel does not give the U.S. an automatic trigger to start military operations if Iraq interferes with the work of weapons inspectors. French diplomats involved even coined new diplomatic wording: "no automaticity." Powell maintains nothing has been changed which "handcuffs" the hands of President Bush to act in the security interests of the U.S.

Indeed, after the resolution passed, President Bush said Saddam Hussein's regime would face "the severest consequences" if Iraq does not comply with UN efforts to disarm its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Preparations for a possible war to force Iraq to disarm will continue, even as inspectors gear up to return to Baghdad after a four year absence.

At the end, all the phone calls, meetings and other political and diplomatic maneuvering came down to a final change in wording, from the word "or" to the word "and" in one paragraph (the last line of paragraph 4). The French and Russians interpret the change to restricting unilateral action by the U.S. Washington does not think it ties its hands. National pride in Paris, Moscow and Washington had been satisfied.

A senior Bush administration official said that during the eight week diplomatic effort the U.S. "never moved away from our principles" though he conceded that "trying to accommodate the views of others … at some times, became an excruciatingly difficult task …" Just one hour before the Security Council voted, Secretary Powell got the final word from his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. The Russians would be voting yes.
  • Brian Bernbaum

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