- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell says the United States is "in striking distance" of winning a majority of U.N. Security Council members' votes on a resolution giving Iraq until March 17 to disarm or face war, but he cautioned that France or another council member may veto it.
"We'll be in intense negotiations over the next couple of days. A lot of diplomacy will be taking place. I think we're in striking distance of [getting] nine or 10 votes" on the 15-member Security Council, Mr. Powell said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."
But it would appear resolution proponents could have as little as one day to line up support. U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte told the Security Council to be ready to vote by tomorrow. Other U.S. officials said the vote will be held tomorrow or Wednesday.
At this time, only four Security Council members the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria have publicly endorsed the resolution. Five members France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria oppose it.
The other six nations on the Security Council Guinea, Angola, Cameroon, Mexico, Chile and Pakistan are officially undecided. However, several have made known their objections to going to war with Iraq and to what they consider an unreasonably short deadline for Iraq to disarm.
On CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," Mr. Powell said he worked hard during the weekend, lobbying leaders of undecided countries to support the resolution.
"I think we're making some progress with the elected 10 members," the secretary said. Published reports yesterday indicated progress was being made with Mexico, Pakistan and Cameroon.
But even if a majority favors the resolution, it would still be killed by a veto from one of the council's five permanent members France, China, Russia, the United States and Britain.
Mr. Powell said on Fox he wouldn't be surprised if the French veto the measure, although Paris historically has been reluctant to exercise that power. The last time France vetoed a Security Council resolution was in 1956 and that was over a Suez Canal invasion that France had joined.
"We'll wait and see what they actually do, but right now I would expect the French to do everything they can to stop it, to include possible use of veto, although they haven't used the 'veto' word," the secretary said.
"They're certainly indicating that," meaning a veto, he said on "Late Edition."
In a statement Saturday, French President Jacques Chirac said, "The ultimatum resolution is not acceptable and, therefore, will not be accepted by France," although he did not explicitly threaten a Security Council veto.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Powell also did not rule out the possibility of vetoes by Russia and China.
"I think the Russians have expressed strong opposition to it, and China I'm not entirely sure what they might do. But yes, there is resistance" from China, Mr. Powell told NBC's Tim Russert.
Time magazine reported in this week's edition that Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured President Bush that Russia's opposition to a war against Iraq would not lead it to veto the latest resolution.
"There were rumors the Russians were going to veto. The president had a conversation [with Putin] and got a different impression: not that Putin was with him, but that he's not going to veto," an unnamed Bush administration official told Time.
However, Mr. Powell denied that Mr. Putin has assured Mr. Bush he would not veto the resolution.
The secretary said the two presidents had a "good conversation," but added: "There are strong and different points of view. We will see what the Russian Federation does when the vote is taken."
The Associated Press reported yesterday that Cameroon is ready to support the U.S. resolution. Mexico and Pakistan also want to support the United States but wish to negotiate a deadline a few days beyond March 17, the wire service said.
"We have no plans to change that date," Mr. Powell said yesterday on CNN.
Mexican President Vicente Fox made a firm anti-war statement in a radio speech Saturday but did not address the new resolution. On Friday, Chilean President Ricardo Lago expressed his objections to the resolution in a telephone conversation with Mr. Bush. But he did not indicate how Chile will vote this week.
U.S. officials are wooing undecideds with assets such as money and trade deals, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice confirmed yesterday on ABC's "This Week."
The United States is in an 11th-hour race with France to reach some of the countries still on the fence. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin left Paris last night to visit the three undecided African nations to try to get them to oppose the resolution.
Miss Rice said she and Mr. Powell have not yet decided whether either will make any lobbying trips abroad.
"We are expecting to make a lot of phone calls. It may well be necessary to do some travel. We will see," Miss Rice said. She also noted that the foreign minister of Guinea will be in Washington this week.
Mr. Powell said yesterday that he thinks it is very unlikely Saddam will comply with the terms of the resolution by March 17.
"If the U.N. Security Council does act in a positive way, and we hope it will, then clearly military force will be appropriate, and there will be international support for that through the U.N.," Mr. Powell said on Fox.
But even if the Security Council fails to act, he said: "The president believes there's a sufficient basis in international law and certainly in the congressional resolution that was passed last fall for him to act with a willing coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein by removing the regime."
Countries opposed to the resolution or leaning in that direction favor more diplomacy and want U.N. weapons inspectors to have more time to determine what weapons of mass destruction Saddam is hiding. Iraq says it has none.
Mr. Powell says Saddam should not get more time to "come clean" about his weapons, as he already has had 12 years to do so.
In his television appearances yesterday, he called "outrageous" a statement Saddam made Saturday in which he demanded that the United Nations lift 12 years of sanctions imposed on Iraq, and that it ban all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, especially in Israel.

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