Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea, which currently holds the rotating Presidency of the 15-nation body, announced the decision after a Council meeting this morning to discuss the next steps forward, including a joint proposal over the weekend by France, Germany and the Russian Federation for a ministerial meeting to consider key disarmament tasks and to set an implementation timetable that is "both demanding and realistic."
"Whatever events occur later on, I would like to tell you that the Presidency will do its utmost to bring views closer together and see to it that the Council is unified," Ambassador Traoré said after the Council decided to hear a report from Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), and Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Council is split between the United States, United Kingdom and Spain, who say that Iraq has already lost its last opportunity to disarm peacefully, and others like France, Germany and Russia, who argue for more time for inspections to achieve the task.
Speaking to reporters, German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said he was working on "a last ditch effort" to find a solution based on his country's latest proposal. Asked whether it was a bit "dreamland" to talk about a 12-point work programme or a 60-day timetable even as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was withdrawing inspectors from Iraq, Mr. Pleuger replied: "Well, I think trying to save the peace is never a dream. It is useful and it is necessary. And if we are not successful, at least we have made the last effort."
Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan said his country was disappointed by the Council impasse, but "although we face a grave situation, we believe that the time for diplomacy never ends, and we certainly hope that even at the eleventh hour we might find a situation which could turn the tide and avoid a conflict."
Bulgaria's Ambassador, Stefan Tafrov, whose country supports the US-UK-Spanish position, regretted the deep divisions in the Council but added that as a future member of the European Union, Bulgaria believes that the trans-Atlantic relationship should be strengthened and not weakened.
The only Arab member on the Council, Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe regretted the US request for the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors from Iraq "which means for us another indication towards military action."