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Frustrated, US shifts its UN course

On Iraq, the US is courting smaller nations instead of France and Russia.

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After a month of failing to reach a compromise with veto-wielding France and Russia, the US is now courting Mexico, Ireland, and the other members of the UN Security Council in an effort to win support for a tough Iraq inspection resolution.

Washington's end run may be spurred by the fact that the ideal weather in which to attack Iraq narrows by the day. But, say analysts, the gambit carries risks.

"The clock is ticking, so the US is calling their bluff," says David Malone, president of the International Peace Academy. "If it requires a vote that isolates the French and the Russians, so be it."

Passage of a resolution would require nine "yes" votes on the 15-member Council, while avoiding veto from any of the permanent five – the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China. A vote may come during the weekend or early next week.

But, adds Mr. Malone, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, the US strategy shift may not produce the best outcome. "A vote that went through with only nine votes would represent a very significant chunk of the world failing to support the strategy encompassed and is a less than optimal outcome."

On Wednesday, Washington and London moved to skirt the obstruction of France and Russia – and to a lesser degree, China – by circulating its resolution for resuming weapons inspections among the remaining Council members.

US officials had for weeks maintained they first wanted to reach consensus among the permanent five Council members. "There's impatience that this has gone on too long," says a Bush administration official. "The president has said this has to be dealt with in a matter of weeks, not months. It's time to bring in the 10, let them have their say, and bring this to a vote."


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