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A veto dilemma for three nations

The US is expected to introduce a tough new proposal on Iraq inspections at the UN Security Council this week.

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As the US begins to push for United Nations approval of a tough new draft resolution for dealing with Iraq, it's getting a cold shoulder from three key nations – France, China, and Russia.

Whether these three veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council can ultimately be persuaded to back the US plan – which requires Iraq to quickly and fully reveal its weapons inventory – is the pressing question of the moment.

All three powerful nations clearly face a dilemma. If they balk, the US may proceed alone on Iraq – and perhaps on other issues in the future. Yet all three – especially Russia and China – are loath to risk souring their relations with the world's only superpower by rejecting the plan. They're fully aware of Washington's "with-us-or-with-the-terrorists" worldview. And they've seen the high diplomatic price Germany has paid for not toeing the Bush line on Iraq.

The US – backed by Britain – is expected to formally introduce the plan at the UN this week. And there's been a flurry of shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Paris, Beijing, and Moscow. Yet as US Secretary of State Colin Powell put it last week, "We're a long way from getting agreement."

The plan reportedly calls for Iraq to reveal all its materials relating to weapons of mass destruction – and give unfettered access to all key buildings, including presidential palaces. If Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fails to comply, "all necessary means" may be used against him.

This weekend, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan rejected the plan, saying, "Our position on the inspectors has been decided, and any additional procedure is meant to hurt Iraq and is unacceptable."

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