- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

CRAWFORD, Texas Chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix yesterday sent a letter to Iraq demanding that it destroy missiles that violate existing range limits, and Turkey said it has reached a "broad agreement" to allow U.S. troops to use its military bases for an invasion.
The moves came as the Bush administration vowed an all-out diplomatic assault to persuade wavering U.N. Security Council members to support a new Iraqi resolution. It is expected to simply state that Iraq remains in breach of earlier disarmament agreements.
In Iraq, the United Nations reduced its humanitarian staff, evacuating nearly half of the 900 foreigners working for aid programs, as the threat of war grows greater.
Mr. Blix was also preparing a list of more than 35 outstanding issues surrounding Iraq's disarmament that he will present to his advisory board of commissioners when they meet on Monday at U.N. headquarters.
Iraq's response to the order to destroy its missiles will test its cooperation as negotiations for war enter a crucial stage. Dozens of missiles discovered by inspectors exceed by 20 miles the 90-mile range set by the U.N. Security Council in a 1991 resolution.
The White House said a new U.N. resolution the 18th concerning Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's disarmament will be presented next week. A senior administration official said the resolution could be offered as early as Monday. It will not contain a deadline, which the administration backed away from on Thursday.
President Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will contact the leaders of each of the 14 other Security Council members in the coming days, discussing the language of the resolution and seeking support, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday.
"There are 15 votes. Every vote is important," he said. Of the 15 Security Council members, only the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria unequivocally support military action without another resolution.
Although China, Russia and France three of the five nations, along with the United States and Britain, that hold permanent seats and wield veto power on the council openly oppose military action, only temporary council member Germany has categorically ruled out force as an option to disarm Saddam.
To pass, the new resolution needs the vote of at least nine nations, provided none of the permanent five uses its veto.
In phone calls with foreign leaders, Mr. Fleischer said Bush administration officials will "urge them to meet the test and to fulfill the mandates of the United Nations," which last November passed Resolution 1441 threatening "serious consequences" if Saddam did not disarm.
Pakistan, Mexico, Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea and Mexico all temporary council members are undecided on how to handle Saddam's continued defiance of 17 U.N. resolutions passed during the past 12 years.
"Given the fact that this is, in reality, the 18th resolution, the president does not think there needs to be a 19th," Mr. Fleischer said. "So this is a very important moment for the United Nations Security Council to decide whether or not it will act."
Mr. Bush continued his diplomatic efforts yesterday, talking with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the emir and foreign minister of Kuwait.
Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister said a "broad agreement" had been reached with the United States to allow American soldiers to use Turkish bases and voiced optimism that remaining disagreements are likely to be resolved.
On Wednesday, the White House made a take-it-or-leave-it offer to Turkey, pledging $6 billion in grants and U.S. government backing for up to $20 billion in loan guarantees to cover costs of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Turkey, however, wanted more than $30 billion in assistance.
"There is a very broad agreement on all subjects," Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said yesterday. "The remaining issues are not that many, but I think we will be able to overcome the differences and mutually agree."
Elsewhere abroad, the number of U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region reached 210,000, including 98,000 in Kuwait, 41,000 sailors and Marines aboard warships in the Gulf region, and an additional 23,000 in the European theater.
Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on Thursday that U.S. forces are ready to go, the Army's 3rd, 4th and 101st divisions are not yet fully in place and the Navy is moving a fifth aircraft carrier into the region.
Still, in a interview on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "We are at a point where, if the president makes that decision, the Department of Defense is prepared and has the capabilities and the strategy to do that."
Mr. Bush meets today with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who has firmly supported the U.S. and British policy on Iraq and can help persuade skittish European leaders. When the prime minister leaves later today, he will travel to France for a meeting with President Jacques Chirac, who opposes the use of force in Iraq.
Before arriving in Texas, Mr. Aznar met with Mexican President Vicente Fox, whose country holds one of the U.N. Security Council's temporary seats.
Mr. Aznar failed to win Mr. Fox's public support for the new resolution and said after their meeting that he had no intention of pressing Mexico to change its position of advocating a peaceful resolution to the standoff with Iraq.
Still, the efforts are part of what the White House yesterday called "circular diplomacy, where the president will talk to one leader, who will in turn talk to another leader, who will in turn to talk to a third leader."
"This was why I was indicating that we have an alliance of members on the Security Council who are working closely together to make certain that there is sufficient support on the Security Council to disarm Saddam Hussein," Mr. Fleischer said.
In their hourlong meeting today, Mr. Bush and Mr. Aznar will discuss the language of a second resolution the United States and Britain will present to the United Nations, along with military planning, he said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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