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US-Britain resolution to set stage for war

United Nations, Feb. 24 (Reuters): The US and Britain said they would bring a new resolution to a reluctant UN Security Council today that would set the stage for war in Iraq by declaring Baghdad in violation of its UN obligations.

The 12-paragraph resolution will not have a deadline nor speak of“serious consequences,” envoys of the two countries said. It would say simply that Iraq has failed to take advantage of its last chance to disarm provided in Security Council resolution 1441 passed on November 8.

British foreign secretary Jack Straw said in Brussels the key paragraph would say “that the Iraqi regime has failed to take its final opportunity to comply with the UN Security Council” afforded to it by resolution 1441.

Britain’s UN ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, will make the formal introduction, which the US and Spain will co-sponsor. A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped the measure would be put to a vote by mid-March, a signal there would be no invasion of Iraq before that time.

France, which has led the anti-war opposition that has strong support throughout the world, announced it would circulate a rival proposal, meant to strengthen UN weapons inspections with the aim of disarming Iraq peacefully.

Washington and London face an uphill task to get approval for their resolution in the face of opposition from France, Russia and China, who have veto power on the 15-member council.

So far the only members who openly support the US and Britain are Spain and Bulgaria. Others have spoken in favour of France’s position for continuing arms inspections or are uncomfortable in having to make a decision.

Before the resolution is adopted or rejected Iraqi President Saddam Hussein faces a test on whether or not he will destroy dozens of missiles by March 1 as ordered on Friday by chief UN inspector Hans Blix.

Destruction of the Al-Samoud 2 missiles, which have a range that exceeds UN limits, would be a blow to Iraq as it prepares for a possible invasion by US forces.

If it does not destroy them, the S and Britain could use this as proof Iraq is not cooperating with the UN, showing that war is justified. Today, Blix knocked down Iraqi hopes for a continuing dialogue with the UN on the missiles. “We have set a date for the commencement of the destruction of these missiles and we expect that to be respected,” he said. Iraq had asked for another meeting with the inspectors on the issue.

In Baghdad today, Gen. Amer al-Saadi, a top adviser to President Saddam Hussein, said: “This is a technical issue and it is not actually considered a hurdle. If the goal is to continue on the legal path, which is through the Security Council, Iraq has no objections to deal with the issue realistically.”

Blix said earlier Iraq’s al Samoud 2 missiles exceeded by 33 km the 150 km range set by the UN Security Council in a 1991 resolution.

He ordered Iraq to destroy not only the missiles, but their SA-2 engines, auto-pilots, guidance and control systems, launchers, fuel, oxidizer, casting chambers, equipment and components designed for production and testing as well as software and research used to construct the missiles.

In Brussels, foreign minister Dominique de Villepin said France’s UN proposal would suggest specific deadlines and time-frames for Iraq to rid itself of nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programmes.

France earlier this month circulated proposals to Security Council members calling for a tripling of inspectors and UN guards to “freeze” suspected weapons sites.

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