- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) — The United States will go to war against Iraq with or without United Nations backing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated Tuesday.

"If (Saddam Hussein) does not disarm, he will be disarmed by a coalition of willing countries. And I believe that if such a decision were to be made, it would prove to be a large coalition," Rumsfeld said at a news conference Tuesday.

The United States expects to ask the U.N. Security Council to vote on a measure authorizing the use of force if necessary to disarm Iraq.

"But If the Security Council fails this test of resolve, a coalition will be ready to act nonetheless," Rumsfeld said.

President George W. Bush's staunchest ally, the United Kingdom's Tony Blair, is under great domestic pressure not to support a U.S.-led war unless the Security Council supports a resolution calling for disarmament or war.

The United States plans to press this week for a vote in the council on a resolution that would authorize force anytime after March 17 if Iraq fails to prove its disarmament. The resolution requires at least nine "yes" votes and no vetoes from any of France, Russia or China.

With vetoes threatened from France and Russia, the United States and Britain are crafting a new draft resolution that would push back Iraq's disarmament deadline from March 17 by a few days. Anything more than that would be a "non-starter."

Bush's spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday "there is room for a little more diplomacy" but not a lot of room to do it. The vote will take place this week."

The United Kingdom has about 45,000 troops in the Gulf region, including 25,000 troops in Kuwait. Rumsfeld said Tuesday if the United Kingdom cannot for domestic reasons take part in an attack on Iraq, the United States has alternative plans.

"What will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role … in the event that a decision is made to use force," Rumsfeld said. "To the extent they're not, there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it."

In the meantime, Rumsfeld also said Tuesday that the United States is "communicating privately" with Iraqi military personnel to convince them of the futility of fighting, and how to surrender safely.

"They are being communicated with privately at the present time. They … will be communicated with in a more public way. And they will receive instructions so they can behave in a way that will be seen and understood as being non-threatening. And they will be not considered combatants, and they will be handled in a way that they are no longer part of the problem," Rumsfeld said.

Pentagon officials said in January they had begun sending private e-mail messages to the accounts of Iraqi military personnel telling them not to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons against U.S. forces, and promising them protection if they take measures to avert their use.




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