U.N. diplomats told to be ready for possible vote Tuesday
Source: Security Council discussions not advancing
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Members of the U.N. Security Council debating an amended resolution that would give Iraq more time to disarm held their positions in a closed meeting Friday night, one diplomat told CNN, characterizing the discussions as "circular."
The latest proposal before the council would give Iraq until March 17 to completely disarm.
"We were advising delegations to advise their governments to have instructions back to them and to be prepared to vote as early as Tuesday," said John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaking also for the resolution's co-sponsors, Britain and Spain.
Diplomats were questioning chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei in the closed session after their latest report Friday on Iraqi compliance.
The draft resolution includes a paragraph that says Iraq will have failed to comply with Resolution 1441, which calls on Baghdad to declare and disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction, unless the Security Council decides that it has "demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation in accordance with its disarmament obligations" by March 17. Iraq has denied possessing such weapons.
But another diplomat said the United States and Britain, both permanent Security Council members, were becoming increasingly isolated in the meeting, with the delegations from Mexico, Chile and Pakistan asking why the resolution does not include benchmarks to measure Iraqi compliance.
The resolution's March 17 deadline would not change if the council were to vote after Tuesday.
When the St. Patrick's Day deadline arrives, the U.N. Security Council will meet to decide whether Baghdad has complied and gotten rid of any weapons of mass destruction it might have. If the council decides that Iraq has not complied, it might issue a statement to that effect, and the "serious consequences" warned of in the resolution would follow.
Most likely, that would involve U.S.-led military action.
Predictions of failure for resolution
If the proposal passes, Iraq will likely fail to comply with it, one council diplomat said. "I have a better chance of getting a date with Julia Roberts than Iraq has of complying in 10 days," the diplomat added.
Another diplomat predicted that the resolution would be defeated by an overwhelming margin if a vote were to take place next week.
France, Russia and China want more time for further U.N. inspections and are critical of U.S. threats to use military force to disarm Iraq.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said what he heard from the chief inspectors' reports Friday morning was a "catalogue still of noncooperation" and that what cooperation Iraq gave came grudgingly and "primarily under the threat of force." He also said that he expected a vote next week because "I don't think this can just continue on and on and on."
Blix, executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, told the council that inspectors have been given prompt access to Iraqi sites and have faced "relatively few difficulties." He said Iraq's cooperation could be a result of strong outside pressure.
ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the council that inspectors have found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told the council that the reports "testify to the progress" made in the inspections regimen. He also said his country would not support the resolution because "we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force."
Senior French government sources told CNN that de Villepin's use of the word "automatic" was important.
That does not necessarily mean the French would wield their veto power because that would come into play only if the U.S.-led faction were to gain nine votes on the 15-member council.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also described the latest round of inspections as "fruitful" and called for a U.N.-generated "list of tasks" for Iraq to complete, one that would answer "all remaining questions" about disarmament.
Chile, one of the six council members known as the "Undecided Six," called for the council to make a unified conclusion on how to deal with the Iraq situation but said Baghdad had not done enough to comply with Resolution 1441.
"The two reports enable us to infer that Iraq's attitude of collaboration, even at this late stage in the multilateral process, is insufficient," Chilean Foreign Minister Maria Soledad Alvear said. (More on reaction)
Blix sees unresolved issues
Blix said Iraq has not resolved all of the remaining issues regarding its weapons programs. He said that verifying Baghdad's disarmament would take time and that inspectors would need to remain once it was completed.
Blix also said that he hoped Iraq would be more forthcoming with documents and other evidence. And he said Iraq has given inspectors names of people who helped destroy biological and chemical weapons in 1991. The availability of names indicates that Iraq should have records, he said.
Blix said inspectors have not found any evidence of mobile or underground weapons facilities. He said Iraq is making a serious effort to quantify biological and chemical weapons destroyed in 1991, unearthing several complete bombs from a re-excavated site.
Blix added that Baghdad also must account for how much of the weapons were produced.
ElBaradei said inspectors have found no evidence that high-strength aluminum tubes and powerful magnets Iraq has purchased were intended to produce nuclear weapons.
ElBaradei also said accusations that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger are "unfounded."
He said Iraqi scientists have agreed to be interviewed without escorts or recording devices, and that inspectors were still seeking to have those interviews conducted outside the country.
-- CNN correspondents John King, Andrea Koppel, Nic Robertson and U.N. producer Ronni Berke contributed to this report. For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.