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Oil is Key in Delay of War - Sunday Herald

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    Sunday Herald - 26 January 2003 Oil is key as Bush agrees month delay France demands Iraqi oil rights to drop veto By James Cusick in London, Marion McKeone in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2003
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      Sunday Herald - 26 January 2003
      Oil is key as Bush agrees month delay
      France demands Iraqi oil rights to drop veto

      By James Cusick in London, Marion McKeone in New York and David Pratt,
      Foreign Editor

      TONY Blair and George Bush have privately agreed a joint strategy that
      will delay any possible war against Iraq for four weeks during which
      time they will work tirelessly to achieve three key objectives:
      Firstly, they seek to p ersuade France, one of the five permanent
      members of the UN Security Council, not to carry out its threatened veto
      of a second UN resolution to allow the US to intervene in Iraq.

      The French, along with Russia and China, also permanent members of the
      UN but not expected to vote, have extensive oil rights in Iraq and want
      those guaranteed before agreeing to any UN resolution.

      Secondly, to ensure that all military personnel and hardware is in place
      for a likely attack at the start of March.

      Finally, to u tilise every possible moment to win the hearts and minds
      of the American and British public and persuade them that war is
      justified in order to disarm Saddam Hussein.

      In what will be a crucial five days for the two leaders, culminating in
      their meeting at Camp David on Friday, the Prime Minister and the US
      president agreed during a lengthy telephone conversations last week that
      the 'United Nations route', however difficult, remained their political

      According to sources at the United Nations in New York, the White House
      has now confirmed to senior UN officials that weapons inspectors in Iraq
      will be given more time and that tomorrow's report to the Security
      Council by the chief weapons inspector, Dr Hans Blix, will not be
      regarded as a trigger for unilateral action by the US and Britain.

      However, the softening of Washington's hardline rhetoric comes at a
      price. Weapons inspection teams will be given only a matter of weeks,
      not months, to complete their report.

      The US is also understood to be ready to compromise its plans to
      monopolise the post-war oil industry in Iraq using only US oil firms.
      The US government's promise to hold Iraqi oilfields 'in trust' for the
      people of Iraq is now looking like an international, US-led promise to
      spread the spoils between US, French, Chinese and Russian oil companies.

      What remains unclear diplomatically is the position the anti-war German
      government will take if the French are seen to roll over in a covert oil
      deal. However new diplomatic noises from Berlin appeared positive, with
      Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, insisting that his country
      maintained 'close ties' with Washington. Fischer also said Iraq had to
      disarm, indicating even Germany would be forced into a compromise

      Blix's report to the security council tomorrow, in his own words, will
      state that Iraq's co-operation with weapons inspectors has been 'a mixed
      bag'. His report will also state that Iraq has not been pro-active in
      assisting the inspectors. For the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell --
      speaking in Davos, Switzerland, today at the gathering of international
      political and business leaders -- Iraq has not done enough.

      And in a hint of what is to come in the coming month, he said the
      international community could not shrink from its responsibility to
      disarm Iraq by force just because 'the going is getting tough'.

      Just how tough will probably be evident within a matter of weeks. Bush's
      State of the Union address to the US Congress on Tuesday, followed by
      discussions inside the security council on Wednesday and the Camp David
      meeting two days later, will be the foundation of an offensive by the US
      government to convince a still doubt-ridden US public that war against
      Saddam is both justified and clear cut.

      Powell has previously admitted that the US administration has not done
      enough to convince the hearts and minds of American and international

      The additional breathing space will also be crucial for Blair. A new
      opinion poll in today's Sunday Times states that the Prime Minister
      still has his work cut out: only 26% said he had convinced them that
      Saddam was sufficiently dangerous to justify military action. Though 72%
      said they would support a war that had the backing of the UN, only 20%
      gave Blair the backing for a war in which British troops would join a
      US-led force.

      All diplomatic, political and military considerations now point to war
      being timetabled for the first week of March. March 3 is likely to be
      the first date of any sustained bombing campaign, with US meteor
      ologists forecasting ideal weather conditions.

      Web report: Iraq

      Copyright C 2003 smg sunday newspapers ltd. no.176088
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