- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 (UPI) — President George W. Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar voiced common cause Saturday, saying time has run out for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's non-compliance with disarmament mandates.

Saddam must not be allowed to be the manager of world peace and security, Aznar said. Allowing him indefinite time to comply with his international obligations would "be the worst possible message we can send for peace."

"He'll play like he's going to disarm," Bush added. "He has no intention to disarm."

The statements came after discussions at Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Texas, on language in a new resolution the United States and Britain will introduce in the U.N. Security Council, finding Iraq in violation of November's Resolution 1441 and thus providing the diplomatic cover for military action to rid Iraq of chemical and biological weapons.

Aznar is a strong backer of the U.S. position that the international community must act sooner rather than later in dealing with the threat posed by Saddam and has helped champion that cause in NATO and the European Union despite public opposition at home.

A week after tens of thousands of Spaniards staged anti-war rallies in cities across the country, a new poll found that about 85 percent of respondents opposed an Iraq war even with the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council. The survey, released Saturday by the Sigmados Institute, also indicated Aznar's popularity dropped because of his support for the U.S. position.

Nevertheless, "we are ready to fight together against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism," Aznar said.

The prime minister indicated Spain wanted Iraq's disarmament to come through a process involving the United Nations, but that "time is not indefinite; we do not have much time" to act.

Bush said that he and the prime minister had earlier spoke by telephone with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in a four-way conference call on strategy in presenting the new resolution to the Security Council next week.

Of the five veto-powered permanent members of the 15-country council, only the United States and Britain believe forcible disarmament of Iraq is increasingly becoming necessary given Iraq's failure to completely cooperate with international weapons inspectors, who returned to Iraq in December after a four-year hiatus.

The inspectors have complained of less than full, proactive cooperation in verifying destruction of chemical and biological weapons Iraq was known to have had in the late 1990s.

Inspectors have also uncovered missiles that violate earlier disarmament mandates to which Iraq had agreed.

Bush Saturday expressed confidence the Security Council would approve the new resolution finding Iraq in violation of its obligations and showed impatience when asked if he would proceed with allies in disarming Iraq without U.N. sanction if the new France, China or Russia vetoed the proposal.

The question, he said, was a replay of those asked before November's vote on Resolution 1441, which faced strong opposition but then passed unanimously.

When asked if the Security Council now faced its last test in proving its relevance to peace and security by voting for the new resolution, Bush's answer was short and to the point.

"Yes. Si. Last chance," he said. "Time is short."

The measure to be introduced next week, he added, was in his view not a second resolution backing up 1441, but rather another in a series of resolutions against Iraq which Baghdad had not honored.

"For the record," Bush said, "this will not be a second resolution. It will only be the latest in a series of resolutions going back 12 years."

The United States has about 150,000 troops in the Gulf region for use against Iraq, in addition to hundreds of combat aircraft and ships. Britain has sent 40,000 troops and Australia 2,000.


(With contributions by Hussein Majdoubi in Madrid.)

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