U.N. action on Iraq will be delayed beyond next week's U.S. midterm elections as the Bush administration, in a bid for French and Russian support, revises its resolution calling for new weapons inspections.
CBS News State Department Correspondent Charles Wolfson reports the U.S. will put forward a "final, tweaked resolution" on sending inspectors back into Iraq next Monday or Tuesday. The views of Russia and France will be reflected in the new text.
The substance of the current U.S.-British resolution will not be changed after that, except for wording.
After giving Security Council members a chance to consult with their capitals for 48 hours, a vote is expected late next week.
"We've spent seven or eight weeks debating this, and it's time for the diplomatic process to come to an end," said a State Department official.
The draft includes declaring Iraq in "material breach" of its obligations under previous U.N. resolutions that ordered Baghdad to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, and warning President Saddam Hussein that if he fails to get rid of such weapons, Iraq would suffer "serious consequences" — a diplomatic way of threatening war.
Iraq condemned the U.S. draft resolution as a declaration of war, reports CBS News Correspondent Charles D'Agata. A statement by the Foreign Ministry in Baghdad says the resolution distorts facts, imposes impossible conditions, and is a declaration of imperialist war. Iraqi officials have said they won't accept any resolution that threatens the use of military force.
President Bush leveled the threat again on Friday as he campaigned for Republican candidates in Harrisburg, Pa.
Varying a now-familiar speech slightly, Mr. Bush called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a threat to America and said the United Nations risked becoming nothing more than a "debating society" if it failed to get tough with Iraq.
And, at a conference in Washington on terrorism, Undersecretary of State John F. Bolton said Iraq had procurement agents searching abroad for technology to advance Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
Iraq would be able to develop a nuclear weapon within a year if it gets the right technology, Bolton said.
He also said Iraq had permitted al Qaeda terrorists to operate within its territory.
Russia and France object to threatening Iraq and want to defer U.N. action until international inspectors return to Iraq after a lapse of four years.
In Baghdad, Saddam's deputy warned Americans on Friday they would be "sent to hell" if they attack Iraq.
Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan also called on the U.N. Security Council to prevent the United States from pushing through a tougher resolution about Iraq's weapons programs, seen by critics as an automatic green light to attack.
"The aggressors will be sent to hell if they attack Iraq," Ramadan told reporters.
Ramadan also said he's confident that the tough new draft U.S. resolution over weapons inspections won't make it past the United Nations, reports D'Agatain Baghdad. He said friendly states at the U.N. will oppose any use of force proposed in a new resolution. He said that Iraq has already announced its agreement to allow the return of weapons inspectors unconditionally.
At the opening of an international trade fair, Ramadan said it is the U.S. and Britain that are isolated on this issue, not Iraq. France, Russia, China and Germany were represented at the fair.
He also accused the U.S. of putting political and economic pressure on the other members of the Security Council.
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the U.S. strategy by telephone with Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov of Russia and Dominique de Villepin of France.
On Friday, Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as saying the members of the U.N. Security Council have made significant progress on a resolution.
"In the last few days we have succeeded in bringing the approaches of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council... closer," Ivanov was quoted as saying. "We have converged on a whole series of positions."
Russia, however, still insists the draft resolution gives no one the right to use force, Ivanov said.
Revising the resolution could take a day or two, after which diplomats who have been negotiating at the United Nations for seven weeks would consult their capitals, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
That means consideration of a resolution would spill over into next week, with a vote probably not until midweek or even later, the official said.
The political effect would be that President Bush will be able to hold back on announcing whether he intends to go to war with Iraq — a potentially explosive issue — until after Tuesday's congressional and gubernatorial elections.
Russia's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Gennady Gatilov, said Wednesday his government still had "quite a lot of problems" with the U.S.-British draft.
On the campaign trail Thursday, Mr. Bush said it was the United Nations' job to force Iraq to disarm and if it refuses to act, "we will lead a coalition of nations and disarm Saddam Hussein."
"You need to do your job," The president said while stumping for Republican candidates in South Dakota.
His lecture paralleled his earlier suggestions that the 191-nation world organization would risk irrelevance if the Security Council did not take a strong stand on Iraq.
"If you won't act, and if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, for the sake of peace, for the sake of a future for our children, we will lead a coalition of nations and disarm Saddam Hussein," He said.
In urging the council to act, Mr. Bush said he wanted the United Nations to succeed and its resolutions carried out.
In New York, however, the U.S. demand for a strong resolution continued to encounter stiff resistance from Russia and France.
But the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said "our bottom line has not changed."
"There needs to be a clear statement of Iraq's failure to comply, there has to be a tough inspection regime and there have to be consequences in the event of new Iraqi violations," Boucher said.
Another U.S. official declined to confirm reports the United States had begun identifying sites in Iraq believed to contain hidden caches of chemical and biological weapons.
But the official said the Bush administration was using all its resources to ensure new inspections would be comprehensive.