United Nations ambassadors from the three nations announced Monday morning that they would not seek a vote before the U.N. Security Council on a final Iraq resolution.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said that France’s pledge to veto any measure that included an ultimatum made attempts to garner the nine votes needed to adopt a new resolution a moot point. Negroponte added Iraq remained in further material breach of U.N. resolution 1441, which called on Iraq to submit to inspections and disarm.
In a briefing later in the morning, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. had nothing more to gain from requesting a vote.
“It was our judgment that no further purpose would be served by pushing this resolution,” Powell said.
France’s U.N. ambassador Jean-March de la Sabliere said Britain, the U.S. and Spain pulled the resolution because they recognized it would never pass the Security Council.
“The co-sponsors made some bilateral consultation last night and this morning and the result is that the majority of the council confirmed that they do not want to authorize the use of force,” he told reporters.
French President Jacques Chirac, who has long been an opponent of efforts to pass a resolution authorizing military force in Iraq, said Sunday he was willing to accept a 30-day deadline for Baghdad to disarm — a longer span of time than the U.S. and its allies had proposed in compromise proposals.
“We just feel that there is another option, another way, a more normal war, a less dramatic way than war,” he said in an interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
However, diplomats and leaders from the three sponsor countries said France had made clear that it would veto any resolution they introduced.
A Monday morning meeting of the Security Council had been scheduled for sponsor nations to present the resolution, but the announcement by the three ambassadors effectively cancelled the official gathering. The meeting was widely regarded as the last chance for diplomats to find an agreed upon solution to the Iraq question.
The announcement that a vote would not be sought has been seen as a signal that war may be imminent. News reports said U.S. officials have told U.N. inspectors to leave Iraq and President Bush has scheduled an address for 8 p.m. EST Monday.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president “will say that to avoid military conflict Saddam Hussein must leave the country.” Fleischer would not say whether Bush plans to give Saddam a deadline.
Saddam said Monday that his country no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction and warned that an attack by the United States might open up a global battlefield.
“When the enemy starts a large-scale battle, he must realize that the battle between us will be open wherever there is sky, land and water in the entire world,” he said in a meeting with military commanders broadcast on Iraqi television.
Powell said that if Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq, the conflict over disarmament will be resolved by the “peaceful entry of force.” However, if he does not leave, Powell said, he will face the “serious consequences” he was warned of in U.N. resolution 1441.
Monday morning’s developments came on the heels of a summit of the heads of state of the United States, Britain, and Spain in the Azores Islands on Sunday. Officials described that meeting as a last strategy session on the Iraq issue.
The three leaders said in a press conference Sunday afternoon that they would mount one final diplomatic push Monday, but that efforts to gain support in the Security Council would end if that endeavor failed.