- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

CRAWFORD, Texas A new United Nations resolution that the United States and its allies will offer as early as tomorrow is the world body's "last chance" to prove its relevance on Iraq, President Bush said yesterday, but he predicted it would pass eventually.
Meeting at his ranch with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Mr. Bush said reports that there is insufficient support for disarming Saddam Hussein "sounds vaguely familiar" to the debate that raged last November, just before the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to demand that the Iraqi dictator disarm or face "serious consequences."
"I think I remember getting asked the same questions prior to the last resolution, the Resolution 1441 that passed 15-to-zero, where the Security Council said, with a unanimous voice, Saddam must disarm. He hasn't disarmed," the president said.
"And so the clarity of vision that took place four months ago I'm confident will be in place after the Security Council takes a good look at the facts," Mr. Bush said.
The president made his prediction despite little movement from the 11 of 15 U.N. Security Council members who prefer a continuation of weapons inspections and oppose military intervention without a second resolution. Only four nations the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria assert that U.N. Resolution 1441 grants the power to invade Iraq and disarm Saddam without another vote.
To pass, the new resolution needs the vote of at least nine of the 15 members, provided none of the five permanent members the United States, Britain, Russia, China and France uses its veto.
Mr. Bush, looking a bit annoyed, took issue with the term, "second resolution."
"For the record, this would not be a second resolution on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It would only be the latest in a long series of resolutions, going back 12 years," he said. The United Nations has passed 17 resolutions since Iraq surrendered after the Persian Gulf war in 1991.
Mr. Bush said the new resolution "will set out in clear and simple terms that Iraq is not complying with Resolution 1441."
Resolution 1441 warns of "serious consequences" if Saddam fails to comply, in what administration officials interpret as authorizing U.S.-led military action against Iraq.
Asked in a brief question-and-answer period with a small group of reporters if this was the Security Council's last chance to show its relevance, Mr. Bush answered: "Yes … last chance."
The president replied only "No," when asked whether he again was willing to wait two months before U.N. action, the time it took to pass the previous Iraq resolution last fall.
"Time is short," he said. "Saddam Hussein wants time. And after all, he thinks he will get time, because he has done so. He has deceived the world for 12 years. He'll play like he's going to disarm; he has no intention of disarming."
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the United States and Britain will propose a new resolution on Iraq to the Security Council sometime this week but will wait a few weeks before calling for a vote to give Saddam a last chance to comply, according to Reuters news agency.
Mr. Aznar, a staunch U.S. ally despite polls in Spain that show that war with Iraq is unpopular with many voters, agreed yesterday with Mr. Bush's viewpoint.
"If Resolution 1441 states that it's Saddam's last opportunity," Mr. Aznar said through an interpreter, "that means that time cannot be long, because the last opportunity has already been given to him. What we have to verify now is whether he has disarmed or not.
"If we now said that time was infinite, it would be a laugh," he said. "It would be very difficult for anyone to take us seriously, beginning with the United Nations. That would be the worst possible message we could send for peace."
But the Spanish president sent mixed messages about the need for U.N. Security Council support for military intervention in Iraq. Mr. Bush has vowed to disarm Saddam without U.N. support, if necessary, but Mr. Aznar said: "We have to continue with our pressure on Saddam Hussein and do all this in unity and in agreement within the framework of the Security Council."
Both men said the process of persuading other world leaders to join a coalition to disarm Saddam is just beginning. While at the Bush ranch for talks, Mr. Aznar and Mr. Bush spoke by telephone with Mr. Blair and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi.
"It was a four-way conversation to talk about the resolution and the strategy," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Aznar is a key player in the White House's diplomatic offensive to persuade reluctant leaders around the world to join the military coalition against Iraq. The Spanish prime minister has had limited success, however, most recently failing to sway Mexico's President Vicente Fox, whose country is a temporary member of the U.N. Security Council.
Along with a telephone call to Mr. Fox last night, Mr. Bush called Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, who has a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council. Mr. Fleischer said the president used the calls to emphasize how the Security Council needs to be strong in order to disarm Saddam.
The wording of a new resolution has not yet been set, but senior administration officials said it would advocate military action if Iraq fails to disarm and possibly would set a deadline for compliance. U.S. officials said they were continuing to work with other world leaders to pick up wavering council members.
The Bush administration hopes Mr. Aznar who meets this week with French President Jacques Chirac, a vocal critic of U.S. policy will be able to convince European leaders that Saddam presents a clear and present danger. An unidentified senior Bush administration official acknowledged broad opposition across Western Europe to war but reiterated that the process of persuasion is just beginning.
"War is not a good thing. Where public opinion comes out on the end is going to depend on partly the way the issue is framed and partly upon leadership," the official said.
Meanwhile, Turkey was nearing an agreement with Washington for use of its strategic bases, ports and territory in an invasion of Iraq.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said in Ankara that the two nations were "quite close" to a deal that would open his country to U.S. troops and materiel, providing a vital northern front for any invasion of neighboring Iraq. The United States has offered $6 billion in grants and $20 billion in loan guarantees to offset the economic costs faced by Turkey in the event of war.


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