Sunday, September 14, 2003
Waving the Veto - 14th September 2003, 11.23

Britain retained the pro-US stance that it has taken throughout this year in the meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council. Under the supervision of Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the five members attempted to reach a consensus for a new resolution that allowed a greater role for the international community in Iraq.

The diplomatic divisions, as reported, were between the United States and France. The United States wishes to 'internationalise' the occupation and spread the costs beyond its own stretched budgets. France has called for a strict timetable of one month for returning full sovereignty to the Iraqi nation and their representatives. This would overturn the role of the US led administration and, as a consequence, ensure that Europe (France) obtained a role in shaping the future of the country.

These stances are too far apart to secure the necesary consensus required for a United Nations resolution. Whilst the United States has shown some flexibility in the transition process of returning Iraq to sovereignty, because of the pressure of events, France has capitalised on this by presenting an almost impossible target - one month. The French have again abandoned the politics of diplomacy for the politics of posture, perhaps viewing the turn to the United Nations by the United States as a similar 'stunt'. Negotiations under these circumstances will prove drawn out and fruitless, as France is unable to play the game very well. You don't bluff when your hand is visibly weak.

The French cards only contain the veto at the United Nations, a strength that the Germans do not even share. The budget deficits of both France and Germany are already too high to support a rise in military expenditure or the transfer of substantial numbers of troops on peacekeeping duties to the Middle East. All 'Old Europe' has is the threat of a UN veto, and in order to demonstrate their willingness to deploy this diplomatic bombshell, thay are forced to take positions that the United States or Great Britain is unable to accept. This is because they have nothing else to bring to the table.


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