- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

LOS CABOS, Mexico Secretary of State Colin L. Powell yesterday said the United States may not win U.N. approval to use military force against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sounding the administration's most pessimistic tone to date on negotiations in the world body.
With U.N. talks at a virtual standoff and several foreign leaders refusing to budge on objections to a proposed U.S.-backed resolution authorizing force, Mr. Powell said next week will likely settle the matter.
"If resolution is not possible, then let's come to that realization and move forward. We just can't continue to have a rolling debate without end," he told reporters gathered at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, a two-day summit addressing the effect of global terrorism.
Also, President Bush and the leaders of Japan and South Korea yesterday demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program "in a prompt and verifiable manner."
Mr. Powell said a watered-down U.N. resolution is simply not an option.
"The threat of force and the threat of consequences as a result of continued violation and misbehavior must be there or we know that Iraq will not respond," he said at the seaside resort where 21 world leaders are meeting.
Mr. Powell spoke bluntly about the prospect of attaining a U.N. resolution on Iraq that meets the criteria set out by the United States.
"We have reached the point where we have to make a few fundamental decisions in the early part of next week and go forward. We all agree that it is time to bring the remaining issues to a head for resolution, if possible," he said.
Mr. Bush nearly six weeks ago said he wanted the United Nations to act in "weeks, not months." That general deadline ends in the second week of November.
In campaign speeches across the country over the past month, Mr. Bush has seldom sounded optimistic about the prospect of the United Nations' granting authority for the United States to use force against Saddam.
He has cajoled, threatened and attempted to shame the world body into firm action, saying it runs the risk of becoming as obsolete as the League of Nations if it fails to act.
But at each stop just as he did yesterday Mr. Bush concludes with the same declaration of U.S. resolve to deal with Saddam.
"If the U.N. does not pass a resolution which holds him to account and that has consequences, then, as I have said in speech after speech after speech, if the U.N. won't act if Saddam Hussein won't disarm we will lead a coalition to disarm him," Mr. Bush said after a meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer yesterday said it would be "not very hard at all" to confront the Iraqi dictator without the support of the United Nations.
Like Mr. Powell, the spokesman sounded pessimistic about a strong U.N. resolution. "It is possible for the United Nations Security Council to fail to confront the challenge of the threat of Saddam Hussein," Mr. Fleischer said.
France and Russia have been the most vocal opponents to a U.N. resolution allowing the use of force. The two nations prefer what has been labeled as a "two-stage" approach supporting the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, with the threat of authorizing force in a separate resolution if Saddam thwarts their efforts to eliminate his stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
France plans to submit its own draft resolution on a settlement to the Iraq crisis in the United Nations if no accord is reached with the United States, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said yesterday.
To pass, a resolution needs nine votes on the U.N. Security Council. Russia, France, China and Britain the permanent members of the Security Council, along with the United States can single-handedly veto any proposal. Britain supports the U.S. plan; China, which has hinted it would abstain, said Friday it has not yet decided whether to vote on any Iraq resolution.
Mr. Powell also said there is still hope for an agreement. "I don't want to say that we're near a solution because it may evade us. But I think we have successfully narrowed down the differences to a few key issues. And if we can resolve these few key issues in the days ahead, then I think we might get a resolution that would be strong."
James Cunningham, U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, made it clear that the United States wants a vote on its resolution by the end of this week. Diplomats said the vote will almost certainly take place by Thursday.
The situation in North Korea also dominated the agenda at the annual economic conference of Pacific Rim nations, this time hosted by Mexico. Mr. Bush yesterday met with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. They urged Pyonyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and made clear their support for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
"The three leaders called upon North Korea to dismantle this program in a prompt and verifiable manner and to come into full compliance with all its international commitments," the three leaders said in a statement.
As with Iraq, Mr. Bush said he will work with foreign leaders to pressure the North Korean leader to disarm.
"Our goal is to work with our friends in the region to convince Kim Jong-il to disarm," the president said.
But the statement fell short of U.S. desires because it did not harshly condemn North Korea's actions nor threaten economic or other sanctions.
Mr. Powell told reporters that the United States has no plans to open negotiations with North Korea. Following its recent announcement of having a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 accord, Pyongyang had said this week it was open to a nonaggression pact with the United States. Bush officials said the president will not agree to U.S.-North Korean talks for now because he does not want to reward Pyongyang for its illicit nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Bush has labeled North Korea as forming part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and Iran.
On Friday, Mr. Bush secured firm support from another key Asian power, China, for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

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