LONDON - The Bush administration has drafted a stringent plan for inspections that provides for immediate access to all sites in Iraq, including Saddam Hussein's presidential compounds and palaces, and authorizes the use of military force if Baghdad interferes, according to European and U.S. officials.
The essence of the plan, which U.S. and British officials are presenting to France, Russia and China, the other veto-bearing members of the U.N. Security Council, is to declare that Iraq is already violating its obligations to the United Nations and to put the onus on Hussein to comply.
Under the terms of the draft resolution, Iraq would be required to provide a full account of its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction before the inspectors returned.
Hussein would have a seven-day deadline to accept the resolution and declare all of his programs of weapons of mass destruction, and a further 23 days to open up the sites concerned and provide all documents to support the declaration, a U.S. official said.
Inspections would be intrusive, possibly with military guards, and could occur at any site in Iraq. Limitations that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed to in 1998 on inspections of Iraq's eight presidential sites would be repealed.
If Baghdad failed to comply with the inspection demands - by failing to provide a full or accurate list, for example - the draft resolution calls for "all necessary means to restore international peace and security," a diplomatic euphemism for U.S. and British military action to remove Hussein from power.
But the Bush administration's resolution ran into stiff resistance yesterday from France, which has balked at Washington's insistence that the resolution pave the way for a U.S. military campaign if Hussein refuses to cooperate.
China and Russia also signaled strong objections.
Bush called President Jacques Chirac of France yesterday to lobby for the U.S. measure. Marc Grossman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Britain's Foreign Office political director, Peter Ricketts, flew to Paris to seek French support.
But Chirac stuck to his position that the initial Security Council resolution should deal with inspections and that the issue of military action should be deferred.
The French appeared to be mounting a lobbying effort of their own to counter the Americans. Chirac met Thursday with the Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji, who is visiting Europe to speak with business leaders. Later Thursday, Chirac called President Vladimir V. Putin to lobby for Russian support.
Zhu was shown on French television saying that "if the weapons inspections did not take place, if we do not have clear proof and if we do not have the authorization of the Security Council, we cannot launch a military attack on Iraq - otherwise, there would be incalculable consequences."
Grossman and Ricketts are due in Moscow today to try to secure Russia's backing. But Russia's foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, sharply reiterated Russian opposition to the use of force in Iraq.
His words echoed those of Putin, who had called for a diplomatic solution on the basis of existing Security Council resolutions.
Still under wraps
The resolution drafted by the United States and Britain has not been made public. But allied and U.S. officials said the draft resolution outlines a detailed and stringent inspection plan in 3 1/2 single-space typed pages.
According to the officials familiar with the document, the draft resolution asserts in its initial paragraph that Iraq is already guilty of a "material breach" of past U.N. resolutions because of its work on weapons of mass destruction and its effort to frustrate the work of inspectors.
Inspectors were last in Iraq in late 1998, when they were withdrawn prior to a U.S. and British bombing campaign to punish Iraq for past violations.
Echoing President Bush's speech to the United Nations on Sept. 12, the draft resolution says that Iraq has been violating the U.N. resolutions for years.
Reveal arms programs
The officials familiar with the draft document said that as a first step toward disarmament, Iraq would be obliged to present a full report on its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction before the inspectors returned.
Assuming that Iraq met the timetable outlined in the draft, U.N. inspectors would begin their work with completely unrestricted access. The draft resolution defines this as "free, unrestricted and immediate movement to and from inspection sites and the right to inspect any sites and buildings," according to an official familiar with the draft.
The draft also stipulates that the United States and the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council would have the right to send representatives along with the inspection teams. An allied official said that those five nations could also pick sites to be inspected and ask for reports on inspections of those sites.
Significantly, the resolution specifically overrides Resolution 1154, which Annan worked out in 1998 to resolve a dispute with Iraq over access to presidential sites. Resolution 1154 required the inspectors to notify Iraq before inspecting presidential sites and to conduct the inspections in the company of diplomats. There are eight such sites in Iraq, covering about 30 square kilometers of territory.
In contrast, the draft U.S. resolution insists on "unrestricted access to presidential sites notwithstanding 1154," said an official who had read the draft.
Iraq has said it is willing to allow weapons inspectors to return without conditions. But it is far from clear that it is prepared to allow the wide-ranging inspections envisioned by the draft U.S. and British resolution.
Limits, or no limits
Iraq, for example, might be calculating that the resumption of inspections will be based on the 1998 understanding with Annan putting limits on inspections at presidential sites.
A U.S. official said Washington hopes that the new resolution would essentially replace all prior resolutions on Iraq since 1991, including both the weapons resolutions and the ones covering the return of Kuwaiti properties.
"Don't think in terms of other resolutions," the official said. "This one will stand alone and have everything Iraq has to give us."