- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) — White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Tuesday that diplomatic discussions at the United Nations Security Council might postpone the March 17 deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm, but he said the 45-day proposal of six undecided nations was a "nonstarter."

Fleischer said President George W. Bush continued calls Tuesday to gather support for a new U.N. resolution to compel Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction and abide by Resolution 1441 passed last fall.

He said Bush had a good discussion with the prime minister of Angola, one of six rotating nations on the Security Council this month that has said it is undecided about the March 17 deadline.

Last week, the United States and Britain proposed a new U.N. resolution that set March 17, Monday, as the final deadline for Iraq to disarm. The proposal met enormous resistance on the Security Council and late Monday the U.S. acknowledged that it could not get a majority of the members to back it. At the same time, both Russia and France said they would veto the measure even if it won support of other members.

Fleischer said that despite the threat of a veto, the other members have a right to vote and take a position. He predicted that the U.S. would lead a large coalition of nations if an attack on Iraq becomes necessary.

On Tuesday, the six undecided nations, Angola, Chile, Cameroon, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan, proposed a 45-day extension that would take the pressure off Saddam for more than a month. Fleischer said any delay as long as 30 or 45 days would be a "non-starter" with the Bush administration. The six nations are the swing votes between the two sides.

But he acknowledged that there are discussions to amend the U.S-U.K. resolution that could extend the deadline past March 17. He declined to speculate how long Iraq has, but said time is short.

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