Seeking U.N. approval for war against Iraq, the United States, Britain and Spain submitted a resolution to the Security Council on Monday declaring that Saddam Hussein has missed "the final opportunity" to disarm peacefully and indicating he must now face the consequences.
But France, Russia and Germany, which oppose the military option, circulated an alternative plan to pursue a peaceful disarmament of Iraq through strengthened inspections over at least the next five months. They won immediate backing from China, despite Secretary of State Colin Powell's lobbying efforts with top officials in Beijing on Monday.
The rival positions set the stage for a heated battle over whether the council would back the U.S. and British demand for war now or the French, Russian, and German call for war to be "a last resort."
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview Monday with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, Saddam denied his al-Samoud missiles violated U.N. mandates and indicated he would resist efforts to destroy them.
He also challenged President Bush to a live broadcast debate on the looming war.
"I am ready," said the Iraqi president, "to conduct a direct dialogue with your president. I will say what I want and he will say what he wants."
Getting approval for the U.S.-backed resolution will be a daunting task. To pass, the resolution must have nine "yes" votes and avoid a veto by France, Russia or China. Only Bulgaria is considered a strong bet to support the U.S.-British-Spanish plan.
Eleven of the 15 council members have endorsed the idea of continuing weapons inspections, but the United States has dispatched some of its top negotiators to Security Council capitals in recent days to push for the resolution.
As CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante reports, National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice says there will be an all-out effort to get the second U.N. resolution -- but mainly because it's important for the allies. The U.S., she says, will act if the council fails to do so. As Plante notes, it will take a lot of convincing to get nine votes in the security council without a veto from France, Russia or China.
For some of the countries, such as Angola, Guinea and Cameroon — poor African nations whose concerns drew little attention before they landed seats on the council — there is the possibility that supporting the resolution may reap financial benefits from the United States. But members of the council who support continued inspections are also lobbying hard.
Washington has reserved the right to wage war with a coalition of willing nations, but U.N. backing would provide legitimacy and financial support for military action and its aftermath. On Monday, Turkey's Cabinet agreed to host tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops, a key step toward allowing Washington to forge ahead with plans for a northern front against Iraq.
The draft resolution does not set any deadlines. But U.S. and British officials made clear they want the Security Council to vote by mid-March.
In a bid to win council support, the one-page draft resolution never mentions the words "war" or "military action." It doesn't declare Iraq in further "material breach" of its U.N. obligations, or call for "all necessary means" to be used against Iraq, as the Bush administration initially wanted.
Instead, the resolution makes just one demand for action by the Security Council — asking it to decide "that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441," which was adopted unanimously on Nov. 8.
Setting the stage for that demand, the new resolution recalls the tough language in Resolution 1441 that warned Iraq of "serious consequences" if it failed to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors and provide them with evidence of its nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range missile programs.
It also recalls that "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations" under U.N. resolutions and notes that Iraq's 12,000-page declaration to U.N. weapons inspectors contained "false statements and omissions."
The resolution acts under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, making it militarily enforceable.
Instead, its only enforcement paragraph would have the Security Council decide "that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441."
French diplomats said the French-German-Russian plan, which includes strengthened U.N. weapons inspections, can be implemented under existing U.N. resolutions and would be submitted as a memorandum.
"The aim is to establish a timetable for Iraq's disarmament, program by program, relating to weapons of mass destruction," French President Jacques Chirac told reporters in Berlin before talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
"The Security Council must step up its efforts to give a real chance to the peaceful settlement of this crisis," the French, Russian and German paper said.
Despite the stiff resistance in the council, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who walked into the chamber together with the ambassadors of the United States and Spain, formally submitted the resolution on behalf of the three countries at a closed meeting Monday.
Greenstock accused Iraq of remaining in defiance of the United Nations, doing "everything possible to prevent unrestricted interviews" with scientists, turning inspections into a "media circus," and providing no cooperation on substantive issues.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte called on the council to support the "prompt adoption of this very straightforward resolution. Iraq itself must bear the consequences of its continued disregard for the council's decisions," he said.
Both statements to the closed session were distributed by diplomats.
President Bush told U.S. governors earlier Monday that the resolution "spells out what the world has witnessed the last months. The Iraq regime has not disarmed. The Iraqi regime is not disarming as required by last fall's unanimous vote of the Security Council."
He pressed the council to adopt the resolution.
"It's a moment for this body ... to determine whether or not it's going to be relevant as the world confronts threats in the 21st century. Is it going to be a body that means what it says? We certainly hope so," Mr. Bush said.
The president said the administration will work with the Security Council "in the days ahead" on the resolution. He did not set a timetable, though his spokesman said Britain's calls for a mid-March vote were fine with the president.
Nonetheless, the next six days are critical for Saddam.
Top U.N. inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei say Iraq
still isn't fully cooperating or providing evidence to answer outstanding questions about its nuclear, chemical, biological and long-range missile programs.
To demonstrate that Iraq is cooperating, Saddam must not only show that Iraq is doing more to answer those questions. He must also comply with Blix's order to begin destroying all of Iraq's al-Samoud 2 missiles and the engines and components for them by Saturday.