By Ray Fleming

During the next three weeks the world will witness the most intensive bout of diplomatic manoeuvring that has ever taken place in public as the decision on Iraq and UN Resolution 1441 moves closer. A lot will happen privately in the corridors of the United Nations and on the hot–lines between the world's capitals; nonetheless, the ultimate decisions will be taken under the world's scrutiny in the Security Council - we will all know who voted which way and why. The time-table from now until mid–late March has several strands of which the two most important are the new resolution which was due to be tabled last night by Britain, Spain and the United States, and the reports on Iraq's compliance with Resolution 1441 due from Hans Blix, the UN's chief weapons inspector. Dr Blix is likely to report to the Security Council at the end of this week or early next, and to make a subsequent, and probably final assessment in mid-March. The new resolution from Britain, Spain and the United States is expected to be short and to the point, alleging that Iraq is already in breach of 1441 on two substantial points. An important third strand to the negotiations may be a counter-proposal by France that military action should be postponed pending a strengthening of the inspectors' teams and the provision of an armed UN force to support them.

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