- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday jettisoned its insistence on a deadline for Iraqi disarmament in a resolution that the United States and Britain plan to present to the U.N. Security Council next week.
"We wouldn't expect the resolution itself to have a timeline," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told the German TV station N24. "But time is running out."
Previously, U.S. and British officials considered a deadline to be a crucial component of any new U.N. resolution, which would be the second since the Bush administration began its push to force Iraq to disarm. The abandonment of such a demand could be an effort to round up the support of wavering allies.
As recently as Wednesday, Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, said the new resolution probably would include a deadline for Iraqi disarmament.
"Explicitly or implicitly, I do expect that, because time will run out as time always does," he told reporters.
U.S. officials told The Washington Times previously that they would not support a new resolution that did not include a specific deadline falling within the next few weeks.
There was also slippage on the timing of the new resolution. Although the White House had said it would be introduced as early as this week, a senior administration official said yesterday that it would be delayed until next week.
Mr. Powell was quoted as saying the resolution would be simple and would state that Iraq is in "further material breach" of Resolution 1441, which set strict terms for U.N. weapons inspections when it was passed unanimously Nov. 8.
Some diplomats in Washington have said for weeks that the United States might have to settle for such a simple resolution and then argue that it is sufficient to justify military action under the terms of 1441, which calls for "serious consequences" if Iraq does not comply.
While the diplomacy played out, a critical piece of the military campaign remained in limbo as the United States and Turkey haggled over an aid package that would clear the way to deploy as many as 40,000 U.S. and allied troops in Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor.
Despite the apparent hang-up, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday the military buildup in the Gulf region has reached the point where U.S. and British forces are now ready to invade Iraq if the order is given.
"I would characterize it as ample," Mr. Rumsfeld, interviewed on PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," said of the force of tens of thousands of U.S. and British troops massed in the area.
"We are at a point where, if the president makes that decision [to attack], the Department of Defense is prepared and has the capabilities and the strategy to do that," he said.
Asked if the U.S. and British forces were ready to go to war, Rumsfeld replied: "Yes."
Mr. Powell said yesterday morning that he hoped for an answer from Turkey by the end of the day, but Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis indicated that a parliamentary vote was unlikely before early next week.
Saying the country must be protected from economic losses stemming from a war next door, Turkish officials are holding out for a package of grants and long-term loans totaling more than $30 billion, about $5 billion more than the latest U.S. offer.
The Pentagon considers Turkish bases and ports key to sustaining a northern front against Saddam Hussein, but a war against Iraq is deeply unpopular among Turkish voters.
Both sides were talking tough, although most analysts expect Turkey to reach a deal with the United States in the coming days.
Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan told the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet that the latest U.S. proposal was "insufficient and we are not looking favorably at the offer."
But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said time was running out for Turkey to agree.
"This is not a bluff," Mr. Fleischer said. "If basing [of U.S. forces] is not allowed in Turkey, we have no choice. We will pursue other options."
Mr. Powell said the United States was looking at "creative things" to make the economic aid package more attractive to Turkey but said Washington was not prepared to offer more money.
Mr. Powell also met yesterday with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, who said the recent divisions in the military alliance about a Turkish request for defensive aid had hurt NATO but left no fundamental damage.
Germany, France and Belgium had initially balked at the U.S. request to defend Turkey, saying it would send a signal that the trans-Atlantic alliance had decided that war was inevitable.
The NATO chief said rising anti-Americanism in some European capitals and anti-European sentiments expressed in the United States in recent days could prove "horribly corrosive" to NATO if allowed to fester.
"I think on both sides of the Atlantic, people need to cool down," Mr. Robertson said.
The Bush administration tried to keep the rhetoric focused on Saddam.
President Bush, while not issuing an explicit deadline for disarmament, said that for oppressed Iraqis, "the day of freedom is drawing near."
"Military action is this nation's last option," he said at a school in Kenesaw, Ga., a suburb north of Atlanta. But let me tell you what's not an option: Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not an option.
"Denial and endless delay in the face of growing danger is not an option," he added. "Leaving the lives and the security of the American people at the mercy of this dictator and his weapons of mass destruction is not an option."


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