- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

DAVOS, Switzerland The Bush administration signaled yesterday that it would not decide whether to go to war with Iraq before early to mid-February, even though it was confident that "at least a dozen" countries would follow its lead in a military conflict.
Two days before U.N. chief weapons inspectors report to the Security Council on Iraq's cooperation, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell pressed world leaders on the need to make Baghdad give up weapons of mass destruction by military force, if necessary.
"We cannot now start shrinking because the going is getting tough," he said on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday.
Mr. Powell, who is expected to make a major policy speech at the forum today, said the administration will make the next steps "deliberately, wholeheartedly, patiently" and "methodically" after the Security Council hears the chief weapons inspectors' report tomorrow.
He said Washington will wait for the Security Council debate on Wednesday, following the presentation of Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Camp David for talks with President Bush on Friday.
"And then, after I've had the chance to consult with my colleagues in the Security Council all of them and the president has had a chance to, as I'm sure he will, consult with heads of state and government, we'll make a judgment about what we've heard and what we see then ahead," Mr. Powell said.
But in remarks to reporters on board his plane en route to the forum, the secretary also noted that "time is running out" on Iraq to disarm or "pay serious consequences."
"We are doing this deliberately, wholeheartedly, patiently, but there will be ultimately an end, I believe, to the patience of the international community, and we are doing it in full consultation and coordination with our friends and allies, some of whom have a different perspective on it than we do," he said.
Mr. Powell met with Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, yesterday. Mr. Gul has been consulting with Iraq's neighbors on ways to avert war, because Turkey, the only Muslim NATO ally, would be directly affected in the event of a military conflict.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Powell and the Turkish officials "discussed the need to prepare for possible use of force, should Saddam not accept peaceful disarmament."
Mr. Powell has maintained that he would prefer the United Nations to authorize the use of force against Baghdad, if necessary, with another resolution, but if that is impossible, he would support a decision to wage war on Saddam Hussein with what Mr. Bush has called a "coalition of the willing."
"There are quite a number of countries that already have indicated that they would like to have another resolution, but without another resolution, they will be with us," he said.
"I don't want to give you names or give you a count," the secretary said, "but we would not be alone, that's for sure. I could rattle off at least a dozen off memory, and I think that there will be more."
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, responding to increasingly vocal French and German opposition to war, said that it was Paris' and Berlin's prerogative to be "on the sidelines" if they chose to do so. In addition to Britain, he named Italy, Spain and Australia and some Eastern European nations as likely participants in the coalition.
Russia and China permanent and veto-holding members of the Security Council along with the United States, Britain and France as well as Canada, have come out in support of Paris and Berlin.
Meanwhile, Switzerland yesterday suggested hosting a last-chance peace meeting to head off a war with Iraq, and it insisted that, in case military force is used, the Geneva Conventions governing the conduct of warfare to protect civilians, injured fighters and prisoners of war should be respected.
European governments and human rights groups have criticized Washington's treatment of terrorist suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, arguing that they should be treated as prisoners of war whose rights are protected under the Geneva Conventions. But the Bush administration says the detainees are enemy combatants not covered by the conventions, although it insists that they live under humane conditions.
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey told Mr. Powell that her affluent central European nation is ready to do anything to prevent war.
"Switzerland is very concerned about the Iraqi civilian population. It is a tradition of Switzerland international humanitarian law, humanitarian aid," she told reporters after a half-hour meeting with Mr. Powell.
Mrs. Calmy-Rey said Switzerland, the newest U.N. member since September, thinks that there must be a new Security Council resolution before any attack on Iraq.
"We are a small country, but we have a duty to do what we can to shape things," she said.
Mr. Powell denied the minister had made a specific offer to host a meeting, saying that she had "just made a reference to the fact that such talks have been held here in the past," in reference to a 1991 unsuccessful meeting between Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
"She made a gracious, passing reference," the secretary told reporters after the meeting. "We have lots of venues in which to hold talks."
A senior State Department official later said that Mr. Powell "did not pick up on the idea," adding that Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously by the Security Council on Nov. 8, "is not a matter to be negotiated."

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