Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, Paul Heinbecker, said he is both
disturbed and encouraged by Iraqi efforts to comply with a UN resolution to
Although not a member of the Security Council, Canada has been working hard
to help two opposing factions heal the divisions over taking action on Iraq.
Heinbecker once again called for compromise on setting a deadline and schedule for Iraqi compliance with demands for disarmament. He said Iraq should be given a three-week ultimatum to meet disarmament demands.
"We are convinced that Iraq is substantially contained and that if it co-operates, the disarmament of Iraq can be had without a shot being fired," said the ambassador repeating what Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said in an interview on the weekend.
Heinbecker warned the current battle within the Security Council threatens to make the UN irrelevant as a force for peace.
A haze of diplomatic uncertainty descended on the United Nations on Tuesday uncertainty over whether the U.S., Britain and Spain are planning to bring forward a new, modified resolution on Iraq to the Security Council.
There's talk of a new deadline near the end of March or even later. There's talk as well of setting out some specific disarmament benchmarks for Iraq. But so far nothing has been confirmed.
The Security Council met in a special open session. Ambassadors from nations not on the Security Council asked to speak, and many, like Heinbecker, delivered strong messages.
The first country to speak in the open session was Iraq. Ambassador Mohammed al-Douriem said he'd come to respond to the "lies and falsehoods" of the U.S. and Britain. "No weapons of mass destruction have been found by the (UN weapons) inspectors," he said.
Iraq, he said, has made "the strategic decision to rid itself of its weapons of mass destruction."
Iraq "reiterates its readiness to co-operate. We will convincingly respond to anyone who has any doubts about Iraq's co-operation," the ambassador told the Council members.
The procession of ambassadors will continue through much of the day on Wednesday.
While that goes on most of the members of the Security Council wait. It's not clear just how the U.S. and Britain might modify their draft resolution.
There are hints of new tests, or disarmament benchmarks for Iraq, combined with a later deadline.
The smaller nations on the Council have suggested a delay of 45 days, an idea quickly rejected by U.S. officials and Britain's UN ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock.
"We are busting a gut to see if we can get greater consensus in the Council," he said. "We are examining whether a list of tests of Iraqi compliance would be a useful thing for the council. It doesn't mean there are any conclusions."
It could be that the deadlock in the Security Council is at least beginning to loosen up. French officials are sending out feelers saying they're "open to dialogue."
And Russia's UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov, seemed to signal some subtle change as well, suggesting that what matters most is not the timeline, but how a decision for war is ultimately made.
"Any resolution which contains ultimatums and automaticity for the use of force is not acceptable to us," said Lavrov.
It may yet prove to be that compromise isn't possible and that U.S. President George W. Bush will defy the UN and go to war anyway.
But there was a new and clear warning from the current president of the Security Council, Guinea's Mamadee Trowawee, who suggested that if war breaks out that way, then the UN may have to meet in an effort to stop it.
"The United Nations will have to take, maybe, the decision. I mean to call for a meeting. I don't know if it will be at the level of the General Assembly or the Security Council. But in that case something will have to be done."
The question of what the Security Council will be asked to do about Iraq is now shrouded in a thick fog of diplomatic uncertainty.
But in another twist, a spokesman for Pakistan's ruling party says Pakistan has decided to abstain on any vote authorizing war against Iraq.
An abstention by such a key U.S. ally in the "war against terrorism" means one less Security Council vote for Washington to count on.
"We do not want to see the destruction of the Iraqi people, the destruction of the country," said Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
Jamali pleaded for the Security Council to allow more time for UN weapons inspectors to do their job.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said however, that the new resolution would be put to a vote this week, although he did indicate a readiness to compromise.
But, Fleischer said, the proposal being floated to push back the March 17 deadline by a month was "a non-starter."
"There is room for diplomacy here," he said. "Not much room and not much time."
Written by CBC News Online staff