- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) — President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar were breaking bread Friday night in Texas at the start of an overnight visit for talks on Iraq and possible language in a proposed Security Council resolution that would be a diplomatically justifying document for military action against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Administration officials said the actual working sessions at the president's ranch in Crawford would take place Saturday morning.

"Spain has been a staunch ally in the war on terrorism and a valuable member of NATO," spokesman Ari Fleischer had said. "Prime Minister Aznar has personally demonstrated great courage and leadership within Europe and the United Nations Security Council in pressing Iraq to disarm peacefully."

Fleischer said Friday that proposed language on a second resolution to Resolution 1441 — passed unanimously in November with U.S. prodding — would be tabled at the Security Council next week by the United States and Britain.

Resolution 1441 calls for Iraq's disarmament beginning with the return of the inspectors for the first time in four years and threatening "serious consequences" if Saddam failed to cooperate.

The new resolution's phrasing, still undecided, was being discussed with allies and "I think you can anticipate that that will be a topic of discussion" with Aznar, Fleischer said.

Aznar is facing increasing political heat from the Spanish public and his ruling Partido Popular over his support of Washington and the need for military action to disarm Iraq.

Unlike British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces similar dissension, Aznar's personal political fortunes are not at stake — he has already announced he will not run for re-election when balloting takes place in 18 months.

Aznar's visit to Prairie Chapel Ranch caps a day of personal diplomatic outreach by Bush, who has made it clear he will lead a "coalition of the willing" to disarm Iraq with or without further U.N. sanction.

Earlier Friday Bush spoke by telephone on the Iraq crisis with the emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.

Fleischer said they "discussed the importance of working together concerning the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to the region."

Kuwait was invaded and occupied by Iraq in 1990. The United States led a coalition of forces that pushed the Iraqis out the following year.

The emirate is now the main staging area for U.S. troops in the event of war with Iraq over its continued defiance of disarmament mandates.

Bush also spoke Friday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and "expressed his continuing support for the United Nations Security Council and stressed the importance of working with the United Nations Security Council on the situation concerning Iraq," the White House spokesman said.

Bush has repeatedly prodded the United Nations to get tough with Iraq and enforce its mandates to retain its relevance to world peace. To allow Iraq to continue its 12-year "cat-and-mouse" game on hiding weapons of mass destruction and deception in meeting its obligations would undermine its credibility, Washington argues.

Fifteen nations serve on the Security Council; five are permanent members with veto powers, while the others serve on a rotating basis.

France, China and Russia — permanent members — are opposed to employing force against Iraq and want U.N. weapons inspectors to be given more time to carry out operations in the country that resumed in December after a four-year hiatus.

Bush says a new Security Council resolution finding Iraq in material breach of Resolution 1441 would be welcomed, but its absence would not prevent him from acting to protect U.S. and international security.

U.N. inspectors have said Iraq is not complying fully with its promises to prove its claim of disarmament. Inspectors have also found missiles, a violation of U.N. mandates.

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