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French, German Leaders Present Weapons Inspections Plan to U.N.

By Peter Finn

The leaders of France and Germany said Monday night that they see no need for the draft U.N. resolution on Iraq put forward by the United States and Britain Monday and instead offered a plan to strengthen the weapons inspection process by laying down specific benchmarks that Baghdad must meet.

French President Jacques Chirac said that establishing exact deadlines for Iraqi compliance would be the job of the inspectors. But his proposal would extend the process for at least another four months. That could rule out military action for even longer because of the difficulty of fighting in summer desert heat.

“We want Iraq to disarm because it represents a danger for the region and maybe the world. But we believe this disarmament must happen peacefully,” said Chirac, after having dinner with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a restaurant in central Berlin named Final Appeal. “We see nothing in the current situation that justifies a new resolution. I’m of the opinion that a majority in the Security Council is also not for a new resolution.”

“Germany’s position is exactly the same,” said Schroeder, who left most of the talking Monday night to Chirac.

Under the French-drafted plan, which was presented to the U.N. Security Council Monday in the form of an informal memorandum, Iraq would face a “rigorous timeline” on each of its suspected nuclear, chemical and biological programs to comply with U.N. demands that it disarm or prove that it already has. “There is no deadline,” Chirac said of his government’s proposal. “Only the inspectors themselves can say when such a deadline is set and how.”

Under the proposal, which Chirac said also had Russian support, weapons inspectors would provide updates on their work every three weeks with the first major progress report due in 120 days.