[ OUR OPINION ]
PRESIDENT Bush has put forth a strong case for disarming Iraq but his argument for urgency has not been persuasive. Most of the United Nations Security Council's 15 members favor giving weapons inspectors more time to do their job. Polls show that a majority of Americans agree, and believe that any military action should include U.N. involvement. At any rate, such action should await the international support needed to assure long-term stability in Iraq and the Middle East after the fighting ends.
More time is needed
to gain U.N. support
THE ISSUEThe Bush administration may introduce a second resolution to the United Nations endorsing military action against Iraq.
Fundamental differences between the United States and traditional allies have prevented formation of such a coalition. France and Germany have joined Russia and China in urging continued weapons inspections. The United States insists that inspections are useless in exposing weapons of mass destruction that Iraq is known to have possessed but whose whereabouts it refuses to account for.
U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the Security Council on Friday did not change any minds. He told the council that a matter "of great significance is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded."
Blix pointed out that it is not the job of inspectors to find evidence of banned weapons or material. If banned items exist, Iraq is obligated to turn them over to the inspectors for destruction. If previously known weapons or materials already have been destroyed, Iraq should provide documentation of that destruction. It has not done so.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has been frustrated in trying to emphasize that point in accusing Saddam Hussein of violating Resolution 1441, the resolution approved unanimously by the Security Council in November. "Resolution 1441 was not about inspections," Powell said. "Let me say that again. Resolution 1441 was not about inspections. Resolution 1441 was about the disarmament of Iraq."
Powell rightly says that doubling or tripling the number of inspectors, as France has suggested, probably would not expose Iraq's chemical and biological arsenal. Surveillance planes and interviews with Iraqi scientists in the presence of Iraqi officials or tape recorders also are unlikely to produce the results sought by inspectors.
The Bush administration and Britain have been drafting a second resolution to present to the Security Council saying that Saddam faces "serious consequences" for having violated Resolution 1441. Powell remarked after Blix's report on Friday that the administration "will make a decision in the not-too-distant future" about whether to propose the resolution.
At this point, such a proposal would face almost certain rejection in the council. Meanwhile, the continued presence of inspectors in Iraq provides containment of Saddam's banned weapons, giving Powell time to bolster his case before the council. That could take weeks or even months.
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