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UK passes buck on UN sanctity

New Delhi, March 16: Britain has squarely put the onus of safeguarding the United Nations’ sanctity on countries opposed to a second resolution seeking the international community’s formal approval for war on Iraq.

If a war becomes necessary, the United Kingdom has said it will join the American forces to ensure Saddam Hussein is disarmed of his weapons of mass destruction.

“The impact of opposing the resolution, both in terms of Iraq, which is the focus of that resolution and in terms of the authority of United Nations, cannot be disregarded by members of the Security Council,” British high commissioner Sir Rob Young told The Telegraph yesterday.

“It would be somewhat perverse that those who are opposing unilateral action at the moment ended up creating conditions in which you can assert it,” he said, in a clear indication that if diplomacy failed to secure the Security Council members’ agreement, then US and Britain would not hesitate to act outside the UN.

US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Spanish counterpart Jose Maria Aznar are meeting in the Portuguese island of Azores in what is being described as a “final pursuit” of a UN resolution on disarming Iraq.

The three countries are the co-sponsors of the resolution seeking the 15-member Security Council’s approval for war.

Sir Rob, describing the summit as “very significant”, said: “It shows how seriously we are making efforts to try and achieve a consensus in the Security Council. We are trying to find a way of bringing on board the other members.”

The leaders of the three countries, he said, were “bending every sinew” to bridge the differences in the council.

Sir Rob did not rule out the likelihood of reaching a compromise with council members hesitant in backing a second resolution. He said Saddam Hussein could be given some more time, but only “a few more days”.

The high commissioner elaborated on the now familiar argument that the Iraqi President has been given enough time to disarm but has not shown any seriousness in doing so.

“Saddam is playing a game with the international community, he is trying to play for time,” he said.

“Everyone must see through that. He could still resolve the crisis quickly and peacefully. But he must be under no illusion that time is seriously running out.”

Referring to countries hesitant to vote on a second resolution, Sir Rob said the unanimously passed Security Council resolution 1441 makes it clear that Saddam Hussein should fully comply with it. If he fails, the resolution is clear he should be forcibly disarmed.

On the opposition Blair is facing back home, he said: “It’s inevitable in a democracy that you get a very wide range of opinion on something as serious as the Iraqi crisis.”

He argued the opposition was a reflection of people’s views on how Iraq deals with its mass destruction weapons and on the UN’s attempt to live up to its responsibilities.

On India’s stand on the Iraqi crisis, he said: “On the core issue of disarmament, India is totally behind the UNSC resolution 1441.”

He pointed out Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement in Parliament on Wednesday that Iraq must fully comply with the UN resolution. So far, the progress in this direction has not been rapid, he said. “What it also means is that the responsibility of taking it (the resolution) forward lay with the UNSC.”

Sir Rob described Bush’s announcement on Friday of a possible West Asia peace plan as “very good” and said it silenced those who were doubting how “even-handed” the US and Britain were in dealing with important issues.

“It’s high time to halt the sufferings from both sides and to create a two-state solution which allows the Israelis to live in peace and the Palestinians to have their own viable nation-state.”

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