Saying the Iraq debate was at a “turning point,” the three countries announced Wednesday that they would not allow the U.S. and British-backed resolution to pass — implying that Russia and France, as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, might veto such a measure.
“China’s position on Iraq is consistent with their joint resolution,” Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told reporters Thursday adding that Beijing “endorses and supports their joint statement.”
Like his Russian and French counterparts, Tang did not directly address whether his country would veto a resolution authorizing force should the U.S. marshal the nine votes it needs for the measure to pass the Security Council, Reuters reported.
Later Thursday, Chinese President Jiang Zemin reportedly voiced his support for the joint statement in a conversation with French President Jacques Chirac. China’s Xinhua news agency reported that Jiang told Chirac that China “still supports using political means to resolve the Iraq issue,” adding, “the door to peace should not be closed.”
With the divide over Iraq deepening between council members, Britain is reportedly considering a proposal to offer Iraq a limited amount of additional time to comply with U.N. disarmament demands. Under the British compromise, changes to the current second resolution proposed by the U.S. and U.K. would give Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a final chance to disarm, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate subcommittee Thursday that Iraq is testing the mettle of the U.S. and the international community.
“[T]he moment we find ourselves in now is a critical moment where we are being tested and where the Security Council, the United Nations, the international community is being tested,” Powell said.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be deterred by false claims that it’s all okay, he is complying, when he is not complying — when he is merely deceiving the international community and trying to keep us from doing what we said we would be prepared to do last November when we passed Resolution 1441,” he added.
Powell will travel to U.N. headquarters in New York Thursday afternoon ahead of Friday’s presentation by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix on Iraq’s level of compliance with international orders to disarm. Powell is expected to address the council after Blix speaks.