The British offered to tone down consequences in its disarmament proposal.

The British offered to tone down consequences in its disarmament proposal.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri dismissed Britain's compromise proposal in the U.N. Security Council today, calling it "an attempt to beautify a rejected aggressive project."
"It's trying to polish this project, which has been rejected by the majority of Security Council members," Sabri told journalists.
Sabri also said a high-level Arab peace mission that was scheduled to travel to Baghdad had canceled its trip, although he said Iraq had not rejected the visit.
The British proposal to give Iraq a six-point list of disarmament tasks or face war appeared to be a compromise because the United States and Britain are having trouble winning support for a Monday deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm or face war.
Proponents of the resolution have been having trouble rounding up the nine Security Council votes needed for the measure to be approved.
Asked about divisions on the Security Council, Sabri said it wasn't divided at all.
"These are not divisions. There is a majority on the Security Council rejecting the policy of war adopted by British and American evil," he said. "This majority adheres to peace."
Asked why the United States was insisting on a Security Council resolution authorizing war, Sabri said: "The United States with its policy of aggression wants international cover for this aggression."
Arab peace mission
The Arab delegation had been scheduled to meet in Bahrain today with the Bahraini king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and then travel Friday to the Iraqi capital.
But Bahraini officials said two delegation members -- Syria and Lebanon -- no longer were expected to come to the tiny Gulf kingdom. No reason was given.
The developments came during a tumultuous day of negotiations as U.S. officials at the United Nations and in Washington expressed frustration and offered sometimes conflicting statements about how long they are willing to wait for U.N. action.
Reflecting the sharp divisions in the council, both France and Germany today indicated they would not support the British proposal setting out conditions for Iraq's disarmament, while Russia and China were noncommittal.
"It's not about giving a few more days to Iraq before resorting to force but about resolutely advancing through peaceful disarmament," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said of the proposal in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration and its allies were still searching for a winning formula that would quickly give them U.N. authority to move against Iraq.
The current U.S.-backed resolution, which would give Iraq until Monday to prove it has disarmed, hasn't mustered the support Washington needs to call a vote, although U.S. officials expressed optimism Wednesday that lobbying efforts were paying off.
Britain's move
Britain proposed that the council set six steps for Iraq to avert war, including the destruction of suspected mobile weapons labs and a television appearance by Saddam renouncing his efforts to develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
But sensing continued reluctance in the council, Britain went further late Wednesday and offered to abandon the Monday ultimatum if members approved the list of disarmament tests. The resolution would then threaten Iraq with "serious consequences" if it failed to comply.
"This is a trial balloon, if you like, to see whether this is a way out of our current difficulties ... to see if we can keep the council together," said British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock.
Britain is desperate to get U.N. approval for military action to avert a political uproar at home that threatens the career of Prime Minister Tony Blair. British diplomats had initially expected the United States and Spain to co-sponsor the so-called benchmarks, just as they had co-sponsored the resolution -- but they didn't.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said he "commended the proposal" to the council for consideration but wanted to see how members reacted "before we embrace it in its entirety."
If the council starts to rally around the ideas, Negroponte said, the United States would be prepared to accept "a very, very, very brief extension" of the Monday deadline for Iraq to complete the disarmament tests.
Otherwise, he said, the ultimatum would stand before the council for a vote.
International responses
In Berlin, a German official said the British proposal still "basically gives an authorization for war" and is unlikely to yield a compromise on the Security Council.
"I think one has realized in Britain, that the draft resolution with the basic approach that I mentioned ... probably will not lead to a success," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's national security adviser, Bernd Muetzelburg, said today.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow was still considering the various proposals on Iraq. "Until we have a draft resolution on the table, it's premature to say how Russia will vote," Ivanov said.
The British proposals "do not respond to the questions the international community is asking," France's de Villepin said.
Based on public statements and private interviews with senior diplomats, The Associated Press has determined that the U.S.-backed resolution currently has the support of seven countries: Britain, the United States, Spain, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Pakistan and Mexico. Angola and Guinea were still uncommitted Wednesday. Chile, Germany and China are expected to abstain. Russia could also abstain or vote against the draft along with Syria and France.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.