U.S. wins over Mexico with revised draft of resolution on Iraq

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States won over Mexico, a key vote on the U.N. Security Council, with a revised resolution on Iraq, but Russia and France are waiting to see if the new U.S. draft meets their main demand, preventing an automatic attack on Baghdad.

The Bush administration has been going over the revised text, hoping to circulate it to the U.N. Security Council later this week and vote on it within 48 hours.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview published Tuesday that the revised U.S. draft takes French and Russian views into account and does not rattle swords. But he reiterated to the French daily Le Figaro that the United States cannot be "handcuffed" if it decides action is necessary.

Mexico's support was seen as key to the administration's hope for unanimous support from Security Council members. For a resolution to pass, it needs nine "yes" votes and no veto by a permanent member -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Jorge Castaneda, whose country is on the Security Council and has strongly supported the Russian and French positions, said late Monday he now believes the revised draft will be approved by 14 of the 15 council members -- with Syria abstaining.

Might abstain

On Tuesday, however, Castaneda said Mexico would abstain if there were no consensus among the major powers.

"The situation is still in a very fluid state. It is still being negotiated. There is nothing 100 percent sure," the foreign minister said in a television interview Tuesday morning.

"Mexico would prefer to vote in favor of a previously agreed-upon consensus," he said. If there was no general agreement among the major powers, he said, "Mexico probably would abstain along with other countries."

An Iraqi official said Tuesday the government is ready to accept a U.N. resolution if it doesn't threaten the country's sovereignty.

The United States has been revamping its initial proposal, which would strengthen U.N. weapons inspections, declare Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and threaten "serious consequences" if it fails to cooperate.

Russia, France and China contend that the United States could use references to "material breach" and "serious consequences" to launch an attack on Iraq without Security Council authorization.

Castaneda told Monitor Radio that the revised draft offers a "final opportunity for diplomacy" and eliminates any mention of the use of force. It also eliminates references to "an automatic trigger," he said.

In response to a Mexican proposal, and to meet a key demand by opponents of the resolution, the new draft resolution offers Iraq a "carrot" of an end to sanctions if it complies, Castaneda said. "It also says that there would be severe consequences if it does not comply."

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov said there were no longer any differences over the issues of 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.

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