UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States and France reached agreement yesterday on a new Security Council resolution on Iraq, removing a key hurdle toward passage of the U.S.-drafted plan for tough new weapons inspections.

French diplomats said the compromise was reached through negotiations at the United Nations and in telephone calls between President Bush and French President Jacques Chirac over the last day.

According to French diplomats, the United States agreed to change wording in a key provision that would declare Iraq in “material breach” of its U.N. obligations.

The change addresses French and Russian concerns that the original wording would have let the United States determine on its own whether Iraq had committed an infraction. Such a determination, France and Russia feared, would have triggered an attack on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

“The Security Council will now be the ones to decide whether Iraq is in material breach,” said a French diplomat, on condition of anonymity.

Russia, like France, also appeared to be softening its position in favor of the American draft.

The latest American text, a product of eight weeks of intense lobbying by the Bush administration, signaled significant progress and included major concessions to Security Council members concerned about setting off another war in Iraq.

Bush said he wanted a vote today although Syria wanted it postponed because of an Arab League meeting this weekend in Egypt.

The president also spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday as lobbying intensified a day before Washington planned to push for a vote on the resolution.

“He’s a real threat,” Bush said of Saddam, “and it’s now time for the world to come together and disarm him.”

Security Council members were expecting U.S. and British diplomats to circulate a revised text later yesterday with the new wording agreed upon earlier in the day.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov told The Associated Press a vote was possible today if the United States and Britain come up with a few more concessions. U.S. and British diplomats said a new version could be ready by the end of the day yesterday.

The U.S. draft resolution includes a greater role for the Security Council but still frees the United States to take military action against Iraq if inspectors say it isn’t complying.

In Iraq, the government-controlled media called the draft resolution a pretext for war and urged the Security Council not to bow to American demands.

“America wants to use this resolution as a pretext and a cover for its aggression on Iraq and the whole Arab nation,” the ruling Baath Party newspaper Al-Thawra said yesterday. “The Security Council should not give (the Americans) a pretext and a cover for the coming aggression.”

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