The leaders of France and China rebuffed efforts by President Bush today to line up support for the use of force against Iraq within the next month or two. Their continuing resistance made clear the difficulty the White House faces in its attempt to win explicit new authorization from the United Nations Security Council for military action.
A day after he said he was open to pursuing a new Council resolution, Mr. Bush said that the 15-member Security Council would have to decide soon and that he was confident it would uphold ”to the fullest” its previous demands that Saddam Hussein’s government disarm.
But after phone conversations with Mr. Bush today, President Jacques Chirac of France and President Jiang Zemin of China both signaled that they wanted United Nations weapons inspections to continue for some time before they would support war. The French ambassador to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, told reporters here that by his nation’s count, there were 10 or 11 Security Council members in favor of giving the inspectors more time.
The administration showed no signs of deviating from its timetable of forcing a showdown within ”weeks, not months,” as Mr. Bush put it last week. But British and American diplomats began considering language and options for a new United Nations resolution, while the military buildup in the region continued, with the Pentagon sending a fifth aircraft carrier, the Kitty Hawk, to the Persian Gulf.
Downing Street yesterday apologised for its failure to acknowledge that much of its latest dossier on Iraq was lifted from academic sources, as the affair threatened to further undermine confidence in the government’s case for disarming Saddam Hussein.
MPs and anti-war groups were quick to protest that other features of Whitehall’s information campaign are suspect at a time when MI6 and other intelligence agencies are privately complaining at the way No 10 has been over-egging intelligence material on Iraq.
It emerged yesterday that the dossier issued last week – later found to include a plagiarised section written by an American PhD student – was compiled by mid-level officials in Alastair Campbell’s Downing Street communications department with only cursory approval from intelligence or even Foreign Office sources.
Though it now appears to have been a journalistic cut and paste job rather than high-grade intelligence analysis, the dossier ended up being cited approvingly on worldwide TV by the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, when he addressed the UN security council on Wednesday.
Downing Street yesterday toughed it out, insisting that what mattered was that the facts contained in the document were “solid” and helped make the case Tony Blair rammed home on BBC Newsnight. But the middle section of the dossier, which describes the feared Iraqi intelligence network, was taken, much of it verbatim, from the research of Dr Ibrahim al-Marashi without his knowledge or permission.