Late Maneuvering On Iraq Resolution

President Saddam Hussein speaks during a televised address Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998 in Baghdad, Iraq
The Bush administration expects to submit a new resolution on Iraq to the U.N. Security Council this week and hopes for prompt approval. Even so, it's not ready to claim victory.

The text has been changed to reflect the result of negotiations with France, Russia and other critics over their objections to threatening war against Iraq if it should refuse to disarm.

After the talks, a senior U.S. official said the votes of Russia and France - either of which could veto the resolution - remained uncertain Monday. He said he did not know anyone who was doing a victory dance yet.

At a one-hour White House meeting, Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the planned revisions with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser.

The revisions go a long way toward taking into account the views of other countries, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. He added the "bottom line" of the U.S.-British draft under negotiations for two months had been retained.

An Iraqi official said Tuesday that, to avoid war with the United States, Iraq is ready to accept a new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections if it does not threaten the country's sovereignty.

The statement by Muhammad Mudhfar Al-Adhami, a ruling Baath party parliamentary deputy, was issued a day after President Saddam Hussein said Iraq would consider requirements of any new U.N. resolution once it had been approved.

"The announcement by the (Iraqi) president yesterday was very clear," al-Adhami told the Associated Press. "If the resolution dealt with the situation according to the United Nations conventions, and if it won't effect the stability and the independence of Iraq, and won't allow the American administration to launch an aggression against Iraq, we will deal with it."

In order to avert "an American aggression...we (would) now accept a reasonable resolution," he said.

Saddam's remarks were the first by the Iraqi leadership to indicate the government would not reject outright changes to the U.N. inspections regime.

As recently as Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri suggested Baghdad would oppose any draft U.S. resolution on U.N. weapons inspections, saying it would be "an evil American resolution" and tantamount to a declaration of war against Iraq.

Permanent council members France, Russia and China, current member Mexico and others objected to including threats of violence in the resolution at least until after U.N. weapons inspectors have been dispatched to conduct new searches for hidden caches of chemical and biological arms in Iraq.

"We think there's general agreement that there needs to be a strong resolution," Boucher said. "We adhere to our core position that there must be a clear statement of Iraq's failure to comply with its obligations. There has to be a tough inspection regime, and there have to be serious consequences in the event of new Iraqi violations."

"Serious consequences" has been a stumbling block so far. France, Russia and some other members fear that the United States would consider adoption of the phrase license for automatic military action if Iraq resisted inspections.

The proposed resolution would make clear that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's palaces would not be exempt from the inspection.

At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said preparations for war could begin soon. He told reporters he met recently with top personnel and military officials to plan for military manpower needs.

"I would expect that there would be Guard and Reserve call-ups in the immediate period ahead," Rumsfeld said. "It could be any time."

Meantime, President Bush spoke of war again Monday while campaigning for Republican candidates in Tuesday's elections.

Evidently convinced that threatening Iraq was a winning issue, Mr. Bush said in St. Charles, Missouri, speaking about the United Nations: "You have a choice to show the world whether you have the capacity to work together to disarm Saddam Hussein to keep the peace or whether you will be like one of your forerunners, an empty debating society."

Mr. Bush also said again that "for the sake of world peace, if the United Nations will not act, and if Saddam Hussein will not disarm, the United States will lead a coalition of nations to disarm him."

Boucher did not say how the revised resolution proposal might be received at the Security Council. He said Powell had engaged in intensive telephone diplomacy over the weekend, conferring twice with Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France and with Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda of Mexico.

Castaneda indicated that Mexico would support the revised resolution, and said he believes the draft will be approved by 14 of the 15 council members - with Syria abstaining.

Castaneda told Monitor Radio on Monday that the revised draft offers a "final opportunity for diplomacy" and eliminates any mention of the use of force, "not even under the euphemism of `all means necessary'..." It also eliminates references to "an automatic trigger," he said.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said there were now "no substantive differences" on weapons inspections, but differences remain on language that Moscow believes could automatically trigger the use of force.

"There remain serious difficulties - it's not easy," echoed a French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.