- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

Britain proposed yesterday that six specific demands to Iraq be attached to a new U.N. Security Council resolution, but the United States remained noncommittal while waiting to see whether the list would help sway undecided council members.
The Bush administration also said that, even if accepted, the benchmarks would not necessarily be part of the "resolution package" but could be a separate, non-legally binding appendix to the main document.
"That is a question of really how useful [the British ideas] are in terms of getting other members of the council on board," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
He said the nine votes needed to pass the new resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain, were by no means guaranteed, although Security Council diplomats later said that at least two of the six undecided members were leaning toward backing the measure.
"I wouldn't deny that we are making progress, but I don't want to mislead you into thinking that we've got it in the bag," Mr. Boucher said in response to a CNN report that the administration was short by one vote.
Washington, London and Madrid have won public support only from Bulgaria, while Angola, Cameroon, Guinea, Chile, Mexico and Pakistan are undecided. France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria oppose the new measure, which would in effect authorize military action against Iraq.
On Monday, French President Jacques Chirac said on national television that France will veto the new resolution.
The United States and Britain were reluctant to introduce the specific demands because if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein takes even the smallest step to meeting them, that could be enough for the council members opposed to a war to call for more time, diplomats said.
But it became clear that such specific demands and an extended deadline might be the only way to attract at least five more votes.
Washington and London had agreed on Friday to a March 17 deadline, which they were reported on Tuesday to have agreed to extend.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who desperately needs another resolution because of rising opposition to war in his Labor Party and government, announced the six tests yesterday in the House of Commons in London.
He said that Saddam must:
Make a public statement, to be broadcast in Iraq and outside, admitting that he has weapons of mass destruction and will give them up.
Allow 30 Iraqi scientists to be interviewed outside Iraq with their families in tow.
Surrender stocks of anthrax and other biological and chemical agents, which U.N. weapons inspectors said Iraq had in 1998, or produce documents to demonstrate what happened to them.
Pledge to destroy banned missiles.
Account for unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, which can spray chemical agents over wide areas.
Give a commitment to hand over all mobile bio-production laboratories for destruction.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw later told reporters in London that "each of these tests is demanding but eminently deliverable."
"These tests are not traps," he added. "Every one of them could be met promptly, if only Saddam Hussein were to make the strategic choice to cooperate with the U.N."
Mr. Boucher also said the demands are "things that can be done in minutes." He noted that the United States was working with Britain on the idea of benchmarks but stopped short of backing it.
During his "question time" in the House of Commons, Mr. Blair was also asked to respond to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's comment on Tuesday that the United States was ready to fight without Britain in a war with Iraq if necessary.
"This country should not take military action unless it is in our interests to do so," the prime minister said.
Mr. Rumsfeld later said he did not intend to suggest that London would be missing in action if military force is used to oust Saddam.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said yesterday that President Bush "is confident of the United Kingdom's role, the military role, in disarming Saddam Hussein because it's the right thing to do to preserve peace."
Mr. Blair said he continues to believe that Saddam responds only to the threat of force.
"The reason why I believe it is important that we hold firm to the course we have set out is because what is at stake here … is whether the international community is prepared to back up the clear instruction it gave to Saddam Hussein with the necessary action," he said.
Mr. Blair and Mr. Boucher accused Mr. Chirac of emboldening Saddam by publicly declaring his decision to veto the new resolution.
"Frankly, saying that he'll veto the resolution, no matter what, sends precisely the wrong signal to Baghdad, precisely the wrong signal for those who want peaceful disarmament," Mr. Boucher said.
The United States, Britain and other Security Council members worked on revisions of London's proposal yesterday. Diplomats said the new amendment could be tabled as early as last night. The council was meeting in closed session.
A U.S. official said Washington was pushing for a council vote tomorrow.
The Bush administration's telephone diplomacy continued yesterday, with Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell trying to win support from the undecided nations.
The president spoke with the leaders of Mexico, Chile and Pakistan, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin, the White House said. Mr. Powell talked to Mr. Straw and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. He also spoke with France's Dominique de Villepin and Germany's Joschka Fischer.
But Mr. Fleischer said it would be pointless for Mr. Bush to call Mr. Chirac, because he has already made up his mind.
Mrs. Palacio told reporters in Madrid that withdrawing the resolution "is a possibility that we are considering, above all, in view of the absolute and categorical affirmation of France to veto."
Spanish officials later said she had been speaking hypothetically and that she supported putting the resolution to a vote. U.S. and British officials denied they would withdraw the text.
"We are in the end stages of a very serious diplomatic endeavor," Mr. Fleischer said. The president, he added, "has given diplomacy a certain amount of time he will not give it forever.
"You are seeing either the final moments of action or inaction at the United Nations Security Council," Mr. Fleischer said.
Joseph Curl contributed to this report.

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