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Playing the U.N. Card

Playing the U.N. Card

By John Dickerson

George Bush was considered such a go-it-alone unilateralist by many world leaders that simply taking the podium at the U.N. was enough to win him praise. "This process will assuage Europe and others," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Bush privately before the President's address last week. Bush scolded the diplomats for letting Saddam Hussein snub them for 11 years and stopped just short of calling them irrelevant, yet was congratulated for pledging to work with the world body on a new resolution that would force Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

But now comes the hard part. Bush and his speechwriters were careful not to dictate specific language for the resolution or timelines for action. But in private, the U.S. is taking a hard line on the details. The Administration will demand that Iraq take no part in negotiations over the resolution. If Hussein accepts weapons inspectors, they must "be able to look under every bed and in every closet at any time," as a senior White House aide put it. Most important, the new resolution must give the U.S. authority to lead whatever military action it deems necessary if Hussein does not comply. Bush will give the Security Council less than a month to act; Iraqi action must follow in another month or two. If either deadline is missed, the U.S. insists it will move alone.


A senior State Department official insists that prospects of a U.S.-backed resolution passing the 15-member Security Council by more than the nine votes needed are good. Britain's support is assured, and France is moving closer to the U.S. position; Bush's announcement that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris-based U.N. cultural agency unesco, officials say, was a plum aimed at rewarding the French. Russian support for action is also close, U.S. negotiators claim, and China, the last of the veto-wielding permanent members, is probably going to go along with the group consensus. "I think all the members of the council are now seized with the issue," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday at the U.N. Whether that means they will go along with the U.S. exactly on its timetable is a tougher question.




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