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U.S., Britain win U.N. vote, but Iraq is smiling

The United States persuaded the U.N. Security Council to threaten Iraq with new sanctions unless it discloses information on banned weapons programs. But it was Iraq that felt like a winner.

Although nine of the 15 council members voted for the resolution Thursday, five abstained: Russia, France, China, Egypt and Kenya.U.S. and British diplomats had said for days that they considered maintaining council unity paramount. Otherwise, they feared Iraq would be emboldened to step up its defiance.

In the end, the Americans and British ended up with neither unity nor the new sanctions in the form they originally wanted.

The resolution expresses the "firm intention" of the council to ban Iraqi military and intelligence officials from traveling abroad unless Baghdad cooperates fully with U.N. weapons inspectors.

In the meantime, the council will draw up a list naming those Iraqis who would be affected by the ban.

"This resolution represents a strong but measured response of the Security Council to the continued failure of the Iraqi government to cooperate" with the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson said.

But Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who was at the United Nations for the vote, hailed the decision by five countries - including three permanent members - not to support the resolution.

"This resolution, in fact, reflects the pre-decision of only two permanent members to impose their own sick motives and norms on the Security Council." al-Sahhaf said. "Those norms are against international law."

The United States and Britain had wanted the council to impose the travel ban April 12 if the next six-month report by U.N. inspectors showed continued Iraqi obstruction.

They deleted that portion after objections from France, Russia and Egypt, but still failed to win their support.

At the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the council ordered Iraq to destroy its long-range missiles as well as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Until Iraq complies, the council intends to maintain crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 when President Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, touching off the gulf war.