U.S. and British diplomats conceded today that they had failed in a week-long, high-level effort to gain support in the U.N. Security Council for a proposal to send international weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
The impasse spells the indefinite continuation of economic sanctions on Baghdad, along with a low-intensity U.S. bombing campaign and an Iraqi ban on international inspectors.
Senior diplomats said the talks would resume, though it remains unclear when or where. It was evident that the council's five permanent members--the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia--had made little progress toward a common policy on Iraq.
China, France and Russia want to lift the economic embargo that was placed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The United States and Britain remain adamant that sanctions must continue until weapons inspectors determine that Iraq has eliminated its long-range missiles and chemical, nuclear and biological weapons.
In an attempt to restart the inspections, Britain and the Netherlands circulated a resolution to create a new arms control agency to replace the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM. U.S. officials said Russia and China refused to support that proposal without assurances that economic sanctions would be lifted. Nonetheless, members of the council have begun discussing candidates for the top job in a new disarmament agency. Among the contenders are Emilio Cardenas, Argentina's former ambassador to the United Nations, and Pasi Patokallio, a Finnish arms control expert.
Diplomats said Britain tried to break the impasse by agreeing on a new chairman before the structure of the new disarmament body had been determined. The Clinton administration refused to go along.