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CNN BREAKING NEWS

New Resolution Withdrawn

Aired March 17, 2003 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: The door is closing on United Nations debate this hour, both literally and figuratively. Diplomats are now filing their way into the Security Council chambers, but there is little optimism there that this closed meeting is going to provide the breakthrough needed to prevent war.
CNN senior U.N. correspondent Richard Roth is at his post. Let's check in with him right now to get the very latest.

Good morning, Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

We're expecting an update, a critical update, on the status of the United States/UK/Spain resolution, which called on Iraq to cooperate by 17th of March, today, with a full disclosure on weapons of mass destruction. Downstairs in the basement, a new area, because of refurbishment going on in the Security Council consultation room, the council is going to meet. They haven't started yet. We've seen Pakistan, and Mexico and Guinea, key uncommitted member of the United Nations Security Council resolution tussle file in. They may not feel the pressure any more after today, because if the U.S. decides to withdraw the resolution, they will not have to announce how they would have voted, or would vote.

Right now, if we take a look downstairs, there's high drama here in this basement area, waiting for key diplomats. We have yet to see U.S. Ambassador Negroponte or British Ambassador Greenstock. We have seen others file in.

If the U.S. was to withdraw its resolution, it would mean they certainly didn't have the votes after weeks of trying. They only four publicly, despite press reports and leaks and other comments, maybe they got up to eight, within striking distance, as Secretary Powell said, but they never cleared the hurdle of getting nine in favor without any vetoes. France and Russia to the last moment here have remained adamant, there was no need nor another new resolution, that Iraq was cooperating enough with the military pressure from U.S. to not justify a war at this time -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Richard, the question then becomes, if this resolution -- if this proposed resolution actually is withdrawn, there is any other role for the U.N. here on out?

ROTH: The role will be mostly humanitarian after that. The United Nations will -- as you can hear right now from our team of spotters, U.S. Ambassador Negroponte and British Ambassador Greenstock on their way down to that meeting room. I believe they've just entered United Nations through the so-called delegates entrance. So in a matter of moments, we'll see the two gentlemen. We believe there may be an announcement from them. These have been the two allies. They were allied here in New York. They were allies in the Azores Islands yesterday, along with Spain, in their bid to try to finally come up with a solution diplomatically.

Here comes British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock approaching the microphone.

Let's listen. He's flanked by the Spanish ambassador, and there's U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, and they've a piece of paper in their hands. Here's their announcement.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I'd be grateful for quiet for a moment. I would like to make a statement on behalf of the three cosponsors of the 7 March draft resolution.

As you know, we have worked very hard in the last few days in a final effort to seek a council consensus on Iraq. In an effort to re- unite the council, the United Kingdom proposed last week an ultimatum which would challenge Iraq to take a strategic decision to disarm. There were three key elements to the compromise we proposed.

First, tough, but realizable tests including an unnecessarily commitment to disarmament by Saddam Hussein.

Second, a realistic, but tight timetable for completion of those tests, given the urgent need for Iraq to comply after 12 years of provocation (ph).

And third, an understanding that if Iraq fails the tests, serious consequences would ensue as set out in Resolution 1441.

Having held further discussions with council members over the weekend and in the last few hours, we have had to conclude that council consensus will not be possible in line with Resolution 1441. One country in particular has underlined its intention to veto any ultimatum, quote, "no matter what the circumstances," unquote. That country rejected our proposed compromise before even the Iraqi government itself and has put forward suggestions that would roll back on the unanimous agreement of the council in Resolution 1441, and those suggestions would amount to no ultimatum, no pressure and no disarmament.

Given the situation, the cosponsors have agreed that we will not pursue a vote on the draft U.K.-U.S.-Spanish resolution in blue (ph). The communiques and press statements that issued at the Azores summit explain the position of our governments on the way forward. The cosponsors reserve their right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq.

Thank you. INOCENCIO ARIAS, SPANISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Good morning.

We share fully the statement made by my British colleague. Resolution 1441 was quite clear. In Paragraph 4, it established an unequivocable way that any false statement or admission or the sheer fact of not cooperating fully would constitute a further material breach. We believe that the government of Iraq was given a last opportunity, and it has squandered it.

Thank you.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Good morning.

I would like to say that we associate ourselves fully with the statement made by Ambassador Greenstock.

I would just make the further point that it has been nearly four and a half months since the council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441, which found Iraq in material breach and gave it a final opportunity to disarm or face serious consequences. The government of Iraq has clearly failed to comply.

Our governments believe that through acts of omission and commission, Iraq is now in further material breach. We advocated a second resolution because a united council would have shown it was intent on enforcing Resolution 1441 and disarming Iraq. We believe that the vote would have been close.

We regret that in the face of an explicit threat to veto by a permanent member, the vote counting became a secondary consideration.

Thank you.

HARRIS: And with that, we've been getting this remarkable news, this historic announcement coming there from the ambassadors of the U.S. and Spain and the U.K., they are arriving at the U.N. for what was supposed to be a behind closed doors meeting to discuss what was next with this Iraq standoff, but the word we're getting now from the British ambassador there, who announced, Jeremy Greenstock, moments ago, coming out and saying that this proposal, this proposed resolution that was being offered by the U.S. and cosponsored by Spain and Britain for a test, a tight timetable and understanding serious consequences would follow Iraq's noncompliance, that proposal is not going to be voted upon. They're taking that proposal off the table.

Now, you also just saw there at the bottom of the screen, some other breaking news that we also heard while we were listening to these ambassadors make this announcement, we have also learned, we've been told, CNN has learned from U.N. officials, that U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan is going to be telling the inspectors that are right now in Iraq it is time for them to leave. We do not know if he has issued that order yet.

Let's go back now to the U.N. We understand the French ambassador is speaking. JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: ... What I understand, even as the consultation didn't start yet, that the cosponsor of the draft resolution decided not to put (ph) this resolution to a vote. They have realized that the majority in the council is against and oppose a resolution authorizing the use of force. This is a position of the huge majority in the council.

During the last day, members of the council repeatedly stated that -- and it is a majority in the council -- that it would not be legitimate to authorize the use of force now while the inspections set up by resolution are producing results. And now I understand that the cosponsor made some bilateral consultation -- last (UNINTELLIGIBLE) consultation last night and this morning. And the result is that the majority of the council confirmed -- confirmed -- that they do not want to authorize the use of force. They majority considered that it would not be legitimate, whereas the inspection is producing results, to take such a decision.

Thank you very much.

HARRIS: And with that, we heard the response from the French ambassador de la Sabliere, coming out and saying that in their consultations that happened here before the behind closed door meeting was to take place there at the U.N. that a majority, in his words, a majority of the council members have confirmed that in their view, no use of force in Iraq would be legitimate while the inspections were actually paying dividends, and paying off, and being productive.

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