Second resolution withdrawn; war begins tonight
The question for each one of us to consider is: who will we be tomorrow?
Second resolution withdrawn
· US: no more diplomacy
· Robin Cook resigns
· Inspectors told to leave Baghdad
Staff and agencies
Monday March 17, 2003
The US and Britain today abandoned hopes of gaining international approval for a war on Iraq, withdrawing a draft resolution as it became clear that it faced certain death in the security council.
The US said that the move meant "the diplomatic window has been closed".
"The United Nations has failed to enforce its own demands that Iraq immediately disarm," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, blamed France for threatening to veto the resolution. It would have issued Iraq with an immediate deadline to disarm or face military action.
Permanent security council members France and Russia today both clearly stated their opposition to a military option, while fellow veto-holder China also indicated that it was looking for a peaceful solution.
"The co-sponsors reserve their right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq," Sir Jeremy said outside the UN in New York today.
After the announcement, the White House said that the president, George Bush, would address his nation on television at 8pm (0100 GMT). He is expected to demand that the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, leave the country or face an attack.
With Britain's withdrawal from the UN process and a war seeming likely within days, the leader of the Commons, Robin Cook, resigned from the government.
France and Russian defy US deadline
Earlier, France, Russia and Germany had delivered a defiant response to a US/UK ultimatum laid down at a summit meeting in the Azores yesterday.
The French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, today told a French radio station: "France cannot accept the resolution that sets an ultimatum and envisages an automatic use of force."
He reiterated France's threat to use its veto to block a resolution paving the way to war in the UN security council.
Breaking a long silence on Iraq, the Russian president, Vladamir Putin, dismissed last night's ultimatum.
"We are for solving the problem exclusively by peaceful means. Any other development would be a mistake, fraught with the toughest consequences, leading to victims and destabilisation of the international situation as a whole," he said.
At a summit meeting yesterday, Mr Bush and the prime minister, Tony Blair, were joined by Spain in giving the international community 24 hours to back a war or risk the co-sponsors of the resolution, who have around 300,000 troops massed in the Gulf, going it alone.
"Tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world. Tomorrow is the day that we can determine whether or not diplomacy will work," Mr Bush said yesterday.
Permanent security council member China also appeared unconvinced by the military option.
Li Zhaoxing, today promoted to the post of foreign minister from his job as ambassador to the UN and the US, said: "We support using the framework of the United Nations to obtain a political resolution to the Iraq problem." He urged people to "keep your fingers crossed for peace".
Today, the German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, said that his country would vote down a UN resolution legitimising war, and called on the UN to give weapons inspectors the time they needed to disarm Iraq peacefully.
Inspectors expected to quit Iraq
The future of inspections was also doubtful this afternoon, with an attack on Iraq appearing imminent. UN weapons inspectors are expected to start evacuating Iraq within the next 24 hours.
Officials at the UN said that the chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, are to confirm to the UN security council later today that their team of around 60 inspectors and support staff are to leave.
According to witnesses cited by the Reuters news agency, several weapons inspectors checked out of their hotels in Baghdad this morning. "Everyone has to be prepared to leave," one of them said, adding that he had not yet seen any directive to do so.
The last time the inspectors evacuated Baghdad in 1998, hours before US-British military strikes, they assembled at the UN headquarters in the city.
Mr Blix had been preparing to give the security council a 30-page report at a closed-doors meeting today. It was to list around a dozen key remaining disarmament tasks that Iraq should complete in the coming months.
Before the US and UK announced that they were abandoning the second resolution, France called for an emergency UN ministerial meeting tomorrow to set a timetable for Iraq's peaceful disarmament, a move supported by Russia.
Robin Cook resigns in protest
Robin Cook, the leader of the Commons and a former foreign secretary, today resigned from the government in protest over the prime minister's stance on Iraq.
Mr Cook left Downing Street before the start of an emergency cabinet meeting, which began at 4pm. He became the first, but possibly not the last, cabinet minister to resign over the looming conflict in the Gulf.
He is expected to make a public statement on his resignation in the Commons tonight, following an address by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, at 7pm.
The moves came as MPs waited to hear whether there will be a debate and vote on military action against Iraq tomorrow.
Cook resigns from Cabinet over Iraq
Civilians and diplomats told to leave Gulf
The Foreign Office has urged any remaining British nationals in Kuwait and Israel to leave as soon as possible, and has withdrawn non-essential diplomatic staff and dependants. It warned that both countries were at risk of an Iraqi attack in the event of conflict breaking out.
"This might involve chemical and biological weapons," the FO said.
It also warned of the increased danger of terrorist attacks, which could "involve the use of chemical and biological materials", in Kuwait, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Germany today closed its embassy in Baghdad and its charge d'affaires left Iraq for Jordan, the German foreign ministry said. Yesterday, Germany advised its citizens to leave Iraq immediately.
Last night, the US State Department ordered non-essential personnel and all family members to leave Israel, Kuwait and Syria.
Post-war reconstruction work to go to US firms
The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, today emphasised that there would be room for international institutions in the rebuilding of Iraq after any possible military action.
The sentiment contrasted sharply with a report in today's Wall Street Journal, which said that the Bush administration saw private US companies taking over most of the post-conflict reconstruction.
The administration's blueprint for a sweeping overhaul of Iraqi infrastructure and society sidelines the UN development agencies and multilateral organisations that normally direct reconstruction.
More than £1bn in contracts would be offered to American firms under the proposals, according to the Wall Street Journal, while just £60m is set aside for humanitarian organisations.
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