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Wording of Iraq Resolution Agreed Upon By U.S., France

By Karen DeYoung and Colum Lynch

President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac agreed Thursday on final wording for a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq, clearing the way for a vote on the measure Friday and the possible dispatch of weapons inspectors to Baghdad within weeks.

Bush said in a news conference that the resolution, which required nearly eight weeks of administration arm-twisting, cajoling and concessions, met all his specifications. “It talks about material breach and inspections and serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continues to defy the world and not disarm,” he said.

A Chirac spokeswoman said that there was a “positive dynamic” during a telephone call Chirac placed to Bush on Thursday morning and that France now hoped for consensus among the council’s 15 members.

The administration believes that Russia will also ultimately support the resolution, although Bush apparently failed to cement a similar agreement during a call he made to President Vladimir Putin. A senior official said the administration has concluded that Russia will not abstain, and there is “not much chance” it will veto the measure.

Despite the lingering uncertainty over Moscow, Bush expressed confidence he was on the verge of achieving the goal he set out in a Sept. 12 speech to the United Nations -- making the international body “relevant” by forcing it to confront Iraq’s obstruction, and rejection over the past four years, of resolutions since 1991 ordering weapons inspections and disarmament.

“It took a while, but we’ve been grinding it out, trying to bring a consensus, trying to get people together, so that we can say to the world the international community has spoken through the Security Council of the United Nations: ‘And now, once again, we expect Saddam to disarm,’ ” Bush said.

Bush said he was “optimistic that we’ll get the resolution vote” on Friday. Passage requires nine of 15 council votes, and no veto by any of the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, of Britain, the staunchest U.S. backer on the council, told reporters Thursday that his government was willing to wait until early next week if that would help achieve a unanimous vote.

Syria, the one council member widely considered a definite “no” vote throughout the negotiations, said Thursday night that the United States had failed to incorporate several changes proposed by Damascus, including an offer to reward Iraqi cooperation with an easing of economic sanctions. Syria’s deputy U.N. representative Fayysal Mekdad made a final appeal to the council to delay a vote until Monday so that Arab foreign ministers meeting this weekend could be briefed on the text, saying “it is very, very difficult, if not impossible, for us to take part in the voting tomorrow.”

But U.S. officials said Bush wanted to go ahead, and a council meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

Although China has raised concerns and remained publicly noncommittal on the resolution, Beijing said Thursday that “on the whole, we believe the new resolution takes into consideration some of the concerns and worries of other countries.”