The resolution accuses Iraq of continuing to thwart weapons inspections and would likely pave the way to military intervention against Saddam Hussein.
American efforts to gather the nine Security Council votes necessary to pass a new resolution suffered a setback Tuesday when Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his nation would not support any measure that led directly to a war on Iraq and was prepared to use its veto in the council.
“Russia has this right and if the situation so demands, Russia will of course use its right of veto — as an extreme measure — to avoid the worst development of the situation,” Ivanov told the BBC World Service.
Ivanov also said Russia would not abstain from any U.N. vote, indicating the U.S. and Britain would need to persuade Vladimir Putin’s government or face a possible “no” vote.
“Russia is not indifferent to the future of Iraq,” he said. “Russia will not abstain. It will take a particular position.”
The Russian foreign minister did say his country would press lead U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and nuclear chief Mohammed ElBaradei to propose a plan for disarming Iraq with specific deadlines and identifiable goals.
“We insist that Blix and ElBaradei on March 7 give a clear plan for work… and say how long it will take them,” he said. “All we have asked Iraq to do so far, Iraq has carried out. Therefore, the inspectors should set out a concrete plan.”
British officials said the Russian position indicated clear differences but said the moment was still approaching for countries to back up resolution 1441, the proposal adopted late last year that offered Saddam Hussein a final chance to disarm.
“I don’t think his words today are any great surprise,” the prime minister’s spokesman told Reuters. “No one is pretending all 15 countries on the Security Council are in the same place on this… But countries have to confront at some point what they’ve signed up to.”
Russia’s comments came as Security Council members prepare for Fridays’ presentation by the U.N. inspectors.
Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General, said the report would likely reflect Iraq’s destruction of 19 al-Samoud 2 missiles, a move he called a “positive development,” but which the U.S. dismissed as inadequate.
Annan stressed it was up to the council to gauge the effectiveness of the inspections and the usefulness of further work by Blix and ElBaradei.
“I think the council’s decision will be based on the totality of the presentation by the inspectors,” he told reporters in New York. “The council has the right to declare a further military breach at any time based on the reports of the inspectors.”
Asked about the continued wrangling of member states over the British-proposed second resolution and other proposals for more inspection time, Annan said vigorous debate was appropriate.
“I think that is part of the democratic process in the council. We are trying to resolve a very difficult issue and various members have put forth proposals to try and resolve the differences in the hope that one can bring the council together,” he said.