WASHINGTON - Bracing for a showdown, the United States and Britain plan to present a new resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Monday in a bid to gain support for using force to disarm Iraq.
The move runs against strong sentiment within the council that force as an option should be set aside at least until U.N. weapons inspectors working in Iraq report their findings in mid-March.
The two allies evidently are willing to risk diplomatic defeat. But President Bush has vowed to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein one way or another - with U.N. support or with the help of a “coalition of the willing.’’
Finishing touches were being put on the resolution. France, which heads an anti-war bloc, has the power to kill it by veto.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told French and German television Thursday that he did not expect the resolution to set a deadline for Iraq to disarm.
“I wouldn’t expect the resolution itself to have a timeline,’’ Powell told German TV N24, “but time is running out.’’
The text of the proposal “will clearly point out Iraq’s failure to comply’’ with the resolution adopted unanimously by the council last November
threatening “serious consequences’’ if it continued to defy U.N. disarmament resolutions, Powell said.
Iraq has provided no more information on its weapons programs and “it’s rather shocking that some members of the Security Council would find this acceptable behavior,’’ Powell told France”s Channel One TF-1.
Britain has favored setting a deadline in the resolution, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Friday.
The two allies’ strategy is to seek the support of nine of the 15 council members, the minimum required for passage of a resolution. However, a veto by France, Russia or China, that would kill it, has not been ruled out, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The chief U.N. weapons inspectors are expected to file a report to the five permanent council members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, at the end of next week and then appear before the council for questioning the following week, the official said.
Powell told reporters at the State Department, meanwhile, that a headcount of who was for or against a new resolution on the 15-member council would be “academic’’ because the resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament had not been put forward.
“We won’t put a resolution down unless we intend to fight for the resolution, unless we believe we can make the case that it is appropriate,’’ Powell said at a news conference.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday evening the buildup of tens of thousands of U.S. and British troops in the Persian Gulf region has reached the point that they could launch an invasion if the president orders one. Asked on PBS’ “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer’’ whether the forces massed in the area were ready to go to war, Rumsfeld replied: “Yes.’’
Powell, who took off for Japan on Friday for the start of a five-day Asia trip dominated by concern over North Korea’s nuclear program, juggled resolution diplomacy with stressful negotiations with Turkey, a potential key ally in a war with Iraq.
The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Faruk Logoglu, told The Associated Press on Thursday that “we are very close to an agreement’’ on a U.S. economic assistance package that could set the stage for stationing American troops on Turkish soil.
Even if the Security Council does not approve a new resolution it “doesn’t necessarily mean that the Turkish parliament will reject the issue,’’ Logoglu said.
Romania, an ally in the event of war, permitted four U.S. military transport planes carrying troops and equipment to land near its Black Sea coast Thursday night in what appeared to be the start of a new stage of the buildup of forces against Iraq.
The planes, which landed at the international airport in Constanta, carried some 250 troops as well as equipment and food. They were to remain in Romania until Monday, said Alexandru Bazdac, an airport official in Constanta.
Turkey has demanded $10 billion in aid, while the United States offered some $6 billion.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraq allowed another flight by an American U-2 surveillance plane as Saddam’s government sought to convince the world that it is cooperating with the weapons inspectors.
It was the second flight this week by a U-2 in support of the U.N. inspection program. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the plane spent six hours and 20 minutes over Iraq’s territory, searching for evidence of banned weapons - weapons Iraq insists it does not have.
In New York, a U.N. spokesman said Iraq also had submitted a list of 83 people involved in the destruction of banned weapons - a key demand by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
In an interview published by the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the exiled opposition group known as the Iraqi National Congress, denounced the United Nations for its “fecklessness’’ on Iraq.
He said over the years it has been “a false witness’’ to genocide, repression and deportation “not only in Iraq, but all over the world.’’
Chalabi said “the principle of noninterference becomes a hypocrisy when confronted with totalitarian regimes that destroy the very fabric of civil society in their own countries. Saddam is the prime example of that. Repression at home is the other side of the coin of aggression abroad.’’