- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) — President George W. Bush heads to a remote Atlantic archipelago for a meeting Sunday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish and Portuguese leaders, but he and his administration seemed now convinced that Saddam Hussein can only be disarmed by war.

On Saturday, the president called Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from his Camp David retreat where he is preparing for the summit, telling Berlusconi, he was "going the extra mile on the diplomatic front," according to White House spokeswoman Jeanie Marmo.

But the summit only includes Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the Portuguese leader Durao Barroso and none of the strong opponents in the United Nations to military action — Germany, Russia, China and France — were invited or consulted about the trip.

Faced with failure to win support in the United Nations Security Council for a second resolution setting a deadline for Iraq, the Bush Administration abruptly announced the summit meeting late Thursday.

It was billed as a session to discuss the diplomatic juggernaut in the U.N. and not a war council. The key question, according to several administration sources, will be whether to abandon getting a second U.N. resolution and simply to issue an ultimatum to Iraq. It may be in part to impress Saddam Hussein, that the French led opposition may not have wrecked the time table and that there is a coalition ready to take action.

If a U.N. resolution will not be forth coming, the U.S. might simply issue an ultimatum allowing for United Nations inspectors, humanitarian workers and other foreign nationals to leave the country before beginning hostilities.

"There is little reason to hope that Saddam Hussein will disarm," Bush said in his weekly radio address, "if force is required to disarm him, the American people can know that the armed forces have been given tool and every resource to achieve victory."

It was Blair, faced with massive public opposition to the war in his own country, who pressed the U.S. and Spain to get U.N. approval for a tight deadline and an authorization for military action. But world public opinion and the hard blockage by France and Russia, warning that they would veto any resolution that threatened war or set a deadline for military action, has robbed him of that chance.

Until late in the week, the United States felt it might rally enough votes, nine, in the Security Council to show significant support and force one of the permanent members to veto it. But a week of hard arm- twisting left American diplomats unsure that they could even get nine votes.

The Turkish government too seemed to stymie Bush's plans, being unwilling to speed up approval for American forces to pass through their territory and open up a northern front against Iraq. Refugee reports carried in various news broadcasts said Iraqi forces were setting up to defend the northern oil fields and had dug pits to fill with oil and ignite, if U.S. forces attacked.

The Azores, a group of nine islands under Portuguese control, lie some 2,300 miles from the East Coast of the United States and 900 miles from Portugal. The talks will take place on a Portuguese Air Force base that normally houses search and rescue squadrons. It was a World War II British airbase for attacks against German submarines and has been used by the U.S. Air Force.

The island would seem perfect for security against terrorism. The island population is Portuguese and quite remote from the normal travel routes. It is also isolated from the worldwide public opposition to the war. There were mass demonstrations Saturday outside the White House and in several other capitals and American cities.

The White House has issued no schedule for the talks, but they are expected to be concluded in a few hours and all the leaders will return to their capitals late Sunday or early Monday.

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