Russia joined with other UN Security Council members yesterday to approve a resolution which condemns Iraq’s recent decision to halt cooperation with UN weapons inspectors as a “flagrant violation” of Baghdad’s international obligations. The resolution, which also demanded an immediate reversal of Iraq’s policy in this area, formalized a statement issued by the council on October 31. Yesterday’s resolution was sponsored by Britain, the United States and Japan. It won unanimous approval from all fifteen council members. The resolution contained no mention of the possible use of force against Iraq should Baghdad fail to comply with UN demands.
Although yesterday’s vote gave the appearance of council unanimity, the final resolution in fact reflected an ongoing standoff between the United States and Britain, on the one hand, and Russia, China and France on the other. As U.S. officials–including President Bill Clinton and Defense Secretary William Cohen–made clear yesterday, Washington is continuing to prepare for possible military action against Iraq. The United States and Britain also take the position that previous UN resolutions already authorize the use of force against Iraq should authorities in Baghdad continue their defiance of UN demands (Reuters, AP, November 5).
Russia, China and France, however, have opposed the use of force. They argue that any future strikes against Iraq require additional authorization by the Security Council. That point was made once again yesterday by Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN. He was quoted as saying that, though Iraq’s actions have been “unacceptable,” the resolution passed yesterday confers no authority for military action. “Any attempts to resolve the problem by using force,” he warned, “would entail highly unpredictable and dangerous consequences” (Reuters, November 5). The same general message was voiced, also yesterday, by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow. Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Moscow is continuing its diplomatic efforts to secure a political resolution of the current crisis and is actively seeking to involve UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in those efforts (Itar-Tass, November 5).
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