UNITED NATIONS - The United States took a final revision of its Iraq resolution to the Security Council Wednesday in hopes of winning approval after eight weeks of tumultuous negotiations with wary allies concerned it could trigger a new war against Saddam Hussein.
The draft has changed significantly since it was first introduced last month, but U.S. officials said the bottom line remains the same: tough new weapons inspections coupled with a threat of "serious consequences" if Iraq fails to comply.
While the revised draft offers major concessions to critics, it still frees the Bush administration to take military action against Iraq without a second resolution.
In an attempt to meet French and Russian concerns, the new U.S. draft gives Saddam "a final opportunity" to comply with U.N. inspectors, holds out the possibility of lifting sanctions against Iraq, and adds a reaffirmation of Iraq's sovereignty.
But it remains to be seen whether the latest draft, written with British support, will satisfy Russia, France and others.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Wednesday that Moscow remains opposed to any wording that would give Washington a free hand in launching military action.
"We still believe that it's necessary to ensure that the new resolution contains no automatic mechanism for the use of force," Fedotov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
U.S. diplomats met Wednesday with the other four veto-wielding permanent council members - Russia, France, Britain and China - before sharing the new text with the other 10 elected members.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said he wanted a vote "by week's end."
"We certainly believe that this is a resolution that deserves consensus support," Negroponte said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who attended Wednesday's council meeting, expressed hope that the council will speak "with one voice."
"I would prefer to see a unanimous decision, 15-0," he said. "That is when we are really effective."