The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US forced to give Iraq more time
- Saddam Hussein gets 10 days to disarm

New York, March 7: Pressured by a Tony Blair under siege and hamstrung by largely positive reports by UN weapons inspectors about Saddam Hussein’s compliance with disarmament, a reluctant US today appeared to have postponed the decision to go to war against Iraq — but only by a few days.

In hectic behind-the-scenes consultations right up to the convening of a momentous UN Security Council meeting here today, Britain persuaded America to amend their joint draft resolution circulated among council members to give Iraq 10 more days till March 17 to disarm or face a military invasion.

With a majority of the council members unwilling to support the US and the UK in their rush to war, a deadline for Saddam Hussein appeared to be their only option to try to win over council members in support of a new resolution paving the way for a US-led attack on Iraq. British foreign secretary Jack Straw announced the resolution.

But France, which has Security Council veto power, rejected it. Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said: “Behind his (Straw’s) presentation there is the idea of an ultimatum, the 17th of March. This is the logic of war. We don’t accept this logic,” he said.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix was today openly derisive in his report of the American position that nothing that has been done by Baghdad was enough to avoid war.

“We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks,” Blix said of Iraq’s compliance last week of UN orders to destroy its Al Samoud-II missiles.

“Lethal weapons are being destroyed... The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” Blix told the council.

His colleague and director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El Baradei, had a dig at US intelligence when he rejected Washington’s contention that aluminium tubes imported by Baghdad were for uranium enrichment in Iraq’s suspected nuclear weapons programme.

Neither Blix nor El Baradei, however, gave Iraq a clean chit on the issue of possessing weapons of mass destruction.

With UN weapons inspectors belatedly receiving “proactive cooperation” from the regime in Baghdad, Blix said: “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months” for the inspectors to complete their job.

The foreign ministers of France, Russia, Germany and China stood together in the Security Council and seized on the reports by Blix and El Baradei to demand more time for inspections instead of adopting a second resolution which would pave the way for war.

US secretary of state Colin Powell was virtually alone in demanding a closure, suggesting that the time had come to use force to get Saddam Hussein to comply with earlier Security Council resolutions.

Addressing a news conference last night, President George W. Bush had said the US was getting ready to wind up its act in the UN and ready for military action irrespective of the outcome of the disarmament process in the world body.

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