A day after the Security Council sternly warned Iraq to honor a weapons inspection agreement, U.N. officials wrestled Tuesday with plans to test the accord by visiting formerly off-limits Iraqi palaces.
The pact calls for diplomats to accompany U.N. teams on visits to presidential compounds, but some U.N. officials said working out details for conducting the inspections was proving to be more difficult than imagined when U.N. chief Kofi Annan negotiated the deal last week.On Monday, the 15-member council unanimously endorsed the Annan agreement and warned Iraq of "severest consequences" if it fails to comply. U.S. officials said the resolution gives the United States a green light to attack Iraq if Baghdad fails to honor the agreement.
But most of the council members, including Russia, France and China, insist the resolution does not authorize military action.
In Baghdad, Iraq's foreign minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, dismissed the threat of "severest consequences" as needless rhetoric. Al-Sahhaf said Iraq was committed to full implementation of the Annan deal.
But the test of the agreement will come only when the inspectors try to visit the sites. That won't happen until details of the new inspection procedures have been worked out.
Among the details still to be resolved are how many diplomats will accompany the inspectors and whether they will be selected from embassies located in Baghdad.
U.N. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said security was among the main concerns. If diplomats must be brought in from Amman or other regional capitals, this will provide the Iraqis with advance warning of the inspections.
It must also be determined whether individual diplomats will accompany the inspectors on all visits or whether they will be selected on short notice.
Although the agreement does not restrict diplomats according to nationality, it is unlikely that Americans and Britons would be included since neither the United States nor Britain maintains an embassy in Baghdad.