The resolution would declare justification for military action against Iraq.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United States and Britain will shortly introduce a new U.N. resolution that would pave the way for military action and give Saddam Hussein a final few weeks to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors, diplomats said.
U.S. and British officials said Wednesday the short resolution, to be circulated later this week or early next week, would declare Iraq in "material breach" of its U.N. obligations to completely eliminate its weapons of mass destruction -- a determination that can be used as legal justification for the use of military force.
"It is time for the Security Council to consider a resolution that says Iraq is in material breach," said Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte.
The Americans and British will then demand a decision on the resolution in two or three weeks, said the diplomats from the two nations, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The deadline would put all parties on notice that war was looming unless Iraq demonstrated it was actively cooperating with inspections, the diplomats said.
U.S. in minority
Details of the U.S.-British plan surfaced Wednesday at the end of a two-day Security Council meeting where more than 60 countries spoke out on the Iraq crisis. The vast majority called for continued inspections and intensified efforts to peacefully disarm Saddam, the same message sent by millions of anti-war protesters around the world this weekend.
But President Bush has made clear he will not be swayed by the protests -- and the U.S. and British diplomats stressed that time for Security Council action will be short.
"It will be a debate about a specific proposition and it will be on a timing that will concentrate people's minds," said British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock. "You've heard ministers in Washington and London saying weeks not months, and that will be the framework for a debate."
The draft resolution will force the Security Council -- whose members strongly support more time for inspections -- to decide whether to authorize military action soon or to continue inspections if the Iraqi government begins to disarm voluntarily, he said.
Greenstock predicted that debate over this "crunch decision" would go beyond March 1, when chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to present his next written report to the council. That would put back the U.S. timetable for a possible war, ruling out February and its optimum weather conditions.
Nine votes needed
Washington and London face an uphill struggle in getting the minimum nine votes for a new resolution. The other permanent council members, France, Russia and China, don't think a new resolution is necessary -- and one of them could veto it.
Several other council members, including Mexico and Chile, reiterated privately that they would abstain in a vote on the resolution unless the United States and Britain found a way to ease tensions with France, Russia and China.
U.S. and British officials said the final language in the resolution was still to be decided by Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, but both sides were close to agreement.
"A resolution within the next few working days is highly likely," Greenstock said.
Asked whether the council would need to impose a deadline for Iraqi compliance, Greenstock said: "Explicitly or implicitly, yes, I do expect that."
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush "intends to work with our friends and allies to offer a resolution either this week or next."
"And the president has made repeatedly clear that the preferable outcome is for the United Nations to act," he told a news conference Wednesday.
After listening to more than 60 speeches, Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri pledged to the Security Council on Wednesday that his country "will continue to cooperate constructively."
"Iraq is determined to cooperate both in substance and in process in order to cut off at the knees any allegations that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"What is wanted from Iraq is not to hand over weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is to hand over documents and evidence that it is free of weapons of mass destruction. This is what Iraq is doing," Al-Douri said.