Britain sets new conditions to Saddam; Spanish FM: U.N. vote by Friday

Published March 12th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Britain said on Wednesday Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must declare on television that he will give up hidden weapons of mass destruction as one of six conditions to avoid war. 

 

Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien said the conditions, which Britain has said it wants to attach to a draft second resolution on Iraq, were being discussed with fellow U.N. Security Council members. 

 

O'Brien told reporters Saddam must declare on television that he has hidden and will now give up weapons of mass destruction. He must allow 30 scientists and their families to fly to Cyprus for discussions with U.N. weapons inspectors. 

 

The minister said the Iraqi government must give up its anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons and admit to having an unmanned drone aircraft which could spray chemical agents over a wide area.  

 

A British source said a another condition would be legislation banning Iraqi state companies from making banned weapons.  

 

"We are in the process of discussions with other members on the terms that we are likely to get through," O'Brien said.  

 

Later in the day, Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament members "If we set out those conditions formally, backed by the UN, we have a chance of averting conflict."  

 

However, Blair admitted it is possible America could go to war with Iraq on its own. "Of course it's true that the US could go it alone and this country should not take military action unless it is in our interests," he said. "It's British national interests that must be upheld at all times." 

 

But he insisted the best course of action was for the international community to back up the clear instruction it gave to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "I'm determined to hold firm the course of action we set out," he told MPs. 

 

Diplomats told Reuters Britain is seeking to lengthen a March 17 deadline, perhaps to March 21 or March 24, and add these several specific disarmament demands for Baghdad to meet. "These are realistic, achievable conditions that Saddam Hussein can comply with tomorrow," O'Brien said. "It's very easy for him to go on television tomorrow to say 'I've hidden this stuff' and make clear his unequivocal commitment to disarm."  

 

Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed resolution may be withdrawn because of France's threat to veto it, the Spanish foreign minister said Wednesday. The resolution is backed by Spain.  

 

Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said that if there is a vote, she expects it by Friday at the latest, but there might not be one. "Clearly, not putting it to a vote is a possibility which is being considered," Palacio said.  

 

"We are considering it, above all in view of the already absolute and emphatic affirmation by France of a veto, because a veto is undoubtedly something which has consequences for the United Nations system," she said.  

 

Palacio spoke to reporters at the Spanish senate after returning from Paris and meetings with her French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and other government officials, AP reported.  

 

A Foreign Ministry official later downplayed Palacio's remarks, saying she was talking about a hypothetical situation.  

 

Palacio said the resolution might be withdrawn even if it garnered the nine votes necessary for passage by the 15-member U.N. Security Council. Before her meeting in Paris, Palacio said Spain is open to changes to the resolution on Iraq, but the measure must ensure the "total disarmament" of Saddam. (Albawaba.com)

© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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