INTERNATIONAL

U.S. sounds tough on Iraq

Washington oct. 31. Even while working on a compromise language at the United Nations, senior Bush administration officials say that the U.S. will not be `handcuffed' by the world body and that it is `determined' to act if the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, does not comply with the provisions. "There is nothing that we would propose in this resolution or we would find acceptable in a resolution that would handcuff the President of the United States in doing what he feels he must do,'' said the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The President's National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, also said the same. The Bush administration is making the point over and over again that while it is for a negotiated way out of the impasse at the U.N., the President, George W Bush, retains the right at any point along the way to strike Iraq.

The tough outward language is no doubt intended to pressure critics at the world body; at the same time Washington is working closely with France to come to terms with some of the objections. With France resolutely opposing a single resolution that automatically authorises the use of force in the event of non-compliance, the debate in New York among the Permanent Five veto holding members has entered the seventh week, with no early end to the stalemate in sight.

One expectation is that a Council consensus could be reached this weekend. But now the impression is that it could go well beyond the November 5 Congressional election. The debate going beyond eight weeks is not contemplated in official circles here. It has to come down to how France, Russia and the U.S. agree to go about without having two resolutions and at the same time warning Baghdad of "serious consequences'' in one resolution itself.

The thinking is that the Bush administration will have to agree to some kind of a language that agrees to consult the Security Council prior to any military action.

The Republican administration meanwhile has refuted the notion that European nations are against the U.S. in this tussle over Iraq resolution. Gen. Powell for instance argued that Britain, Italy and Spain and a "number of Benelux countries'' are lined up behind the U.S. The White House has been saying that the regime in Iraq must be sent a strong message.

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