UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Security Council reached tentative agreement Monday on a resolution warning Iraq of “severest consequences” if it violates an arms inspection deal.
But agreement came only after several members insisted on guarantees that it would not give automatic approval for a military attack if Iraq breaks the accord.
The council scheduled a vote for Monday evening after diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China became the last of the 15 members to agree to the oft-revised text.
The difficulties encountered in reaching a consensus cast doubt on the Clinton administration’s claims that if Iraq violated the deal there would be strong international support for military action.
During lengthy meetings throughout the day, envoys from such countries as Brazil, Costa Rica and Portugal, which normally support the U.S. stand against Iraq, made clear they opposed any resolution that would give Washington a blank check for an attack if Iraq doesn’t honor the accord.
The United States has maintained that it has sufficient authority to use force under several resolutions enacted since 1991. But France, Russia, China and others dispute that interpretation.
In Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told CNN the proposed resolution is an attempt by the United States and Britain to lay the foundation for an attack.
The resolution would endorse an agreement reached last week in Baghdad by Secretary-General Kofi Annan that allows U.N. inspectors to visit eight presidential palaces. The Iraqis had placed the palaces off-limits, calling them sovereign sites.
The inspectors are trying to determine if Iraq has complied with U.N. orders, issued at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, to destroy all long-range missiles and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.