Bush Pushes Iraq Plan Over Russian and French Opposition
By Brian Knowlton
International Herald Tribune | New York Times
Monday 10 March 2003
President Bush undertook a round of telephone diplomacy today to try to build support for a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing force against Iraq, even as France said it would veto the measure, if necessary.
A vote is possible as early as Tuesday, and is certain to come this week, officials said. President Jacques Chirac of France pledged to veto the resolution if that were the only way to block its passage. He said he was even considering flying to New York to make his case personally before the council.
Russia also made its clearest declaration yet in opposition to the resolution, at least as it is now written. "Russia openly states that if the draft resolution currently introduced for consideration and which contains impractical ultimatums is put to a vote, Russia will vote against this resolution," Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov said in Moscow.
But that might not be necessary. Despite Mr. Bush's efforts today to build support in phone calls to leaders in China and Japan, among others, Washington still appeared uncertain of the votes it would need for its resolution to pass the Security Council and provide the basis for an international call for war. But the chief White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the administration still had hope of gaining 9 or 10 votes on the 15-member council.
Mr. Fleischer began to speak more directly today of what he said would be the international legitimacy of a war lacking a United Nations imprimatur. He repeatedly used the word "moral" to describe such a war and said that it could save Iraqi lives in the long run.
But a veto by one or more of the five permanent Security Council members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - would represent an enormous diplomatic setback for the Washington-led cause even if the Bush administration secured a nine-vote majority.
It would complicate matters for Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, who is already embattled at home over his support of a possible war. And it could throw into question future United States cooperation with the United Nations, even as Washington turns to it to help resolve a growing dispute with North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs.
Under enormous political pressure, American officials and their British allies indicated new openness to amending the proposed text. Other council members want to give Iraq time to disarm beyond the currently specified date of March 17; some favor setting out a list of "benchmarks," or specific disarmament tasks.
Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said that "March 17 is a more than adequate date." But he would not rule out an extension of time for disarmament. Mr. Fleischer, too, said that there was "some level of flexibility" as talks continued.
Mr. Bush spoke today to the leaders of China and Japan.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan said that his country would not take part in a war against Iraq, but would help to pay for Iraqi reconstruction. Seeking to broaden international support, Mr. Bush also spoke to South African and Omani leaders.
Mr. Bush spoke to Mr. Koizumi and President Jiang Zemin of China about North Korea, as well. Pyongyang's moves to revive its nuclear program, along with recent revelations about an Iranian program to enrich uranium, demonstrated why Iraq must now be forced to disarm, said Mr. Fleischer.
If the Security Council failed to act now, he said, "proliferators will celebrate" and the onus would be on the United Nations. Past Security Council hesitations, he said, had cost thousands of lives in Kosovo and Rwanda.
A former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, recommended that a vote be delayed for a week or two. The odds of the United States prevailing on the Security Council now, he said, were even at best, and a defeat would be "catastrophic."
Angola appeared to be leaning to the United States camp, despite a visit by the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin. Foreign Minister Joao Bernardo de Miranda of Angola said that his country was resigned to the prospect of war, Agence France-Press reported.
Guinea, another country on Mr. de Villepin's itinerary, and the current Security Council chair, was considered undecided. The foreign minister of Guinea, Francois Fall, met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at the State Department today and told reporters afterward that "we are trying to solve the problem peacefully."
Cameroon, the third country on de Villepin's itinerary, is also considered undecided, as are Chile and Mexico.
Britain, meanwhile, was sending its Africa minister, Baroness Amos, to the three African countries for the second time in two weeks, the BBC reported.
Pakistan's prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, said today that it would be difficult for his country to vote for a war against Iraq, but there were indications Islamabad would ultimately abstain.
Iraq, while complaining bitterly about American and British war preparations, has vowed to continue disarming. United Nations officials in Baghdad said that Iraq destroyed six more banned Al Samoud 2 missiles today - bringing the total to 52, about half the number Iraq has said it owns. But Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said in Baghdad that Iraq would, if necessary, "fight until the end."
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France Will Veto Iraq Measure
New York Times | Reuters
Monday 10 March 2003
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Jacques Chirac said Monday France would use its U.N. Security Council veto to block a resolution authorizing war against Iraq.
"Whatever happens, France will vote 'no'," Chirac said on LCI television in his first televised interview on the Iraq crisis.
"There could, effectively, be a majority of nine votes or more for a new resolution, one which would authorize war.
"If that was the case, then France would vote 'no'. France will vote 'no' because she considers tonight that there is no reason to wage a war to reach the goal we set ourselves, that is the disarmament of Iraq," he said.
The French leader, who has led opposition to U.S. demands for Iraq to be disarmed of its suspected weapons of mass destruction by force, said he believed Russia and China -- fellow veto-holding permanent members of the Council -- were also ready to use their vetoes.
Earlier Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow would vote against a new draft U.N. resolution by the United States, Britain and Spain giving Iraq until March 17 to disarm or face war.
However, the French president said Iraq was not cooperating sufficiently with U.N. arms inspectors looking for alleged weapons of mass destruction.
"It's not for you or me to say whether the inspections are effective, if Iraq is sufficiently cooperative -- it is not, by the way, I'll tell you that straight away," Chirac said.
He also said no decision had been taken on a French call for heads of state and government to travel to New York for a U.N. vote on the new resolution. A vote on the draft resolution is expected this week.
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