- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

From combined dispatches
President Bush's meeting today with Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain is shaping up as more a symbol of determination than an 11th-hour quest for a diplomatic miracle.
Needing a minimum of nine votes in the U.N. Security Council this week for their resolution to back force to disarm Iraq, they have the sure support only of Bulgaria.
Three African countries Angola, Cameroon and Guinea and Pakistan have stirred hopes within the administration that they could be counted on as well.
That leaves Chile and Mexico as the prime targets of U.S. and British diplomacy. But even if nine votes were rounded up, France stands in the wings wielding a veto that would kill the resolution.
A senior U.S. official acknowledged yesterday that the chances of rounding up enough votes were dim. But he said the leaders' gathering at the Azores islands in the Atlantic would remind the world and particularly France that the United States, Britain and Spain head a coalition ready to act soon against Iraq.
France's actions eased pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and the three allies intend to try to reapply it in a strong statement after their summit, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
France and its two allies in the anti-war bloc, Russia and Germany, said in a joint declaration that there was no justification to use force and to stop weapons inspections. They called for a foreign ministers' meeting Tuesday to discuss a "realistic" timetable for Saddam to disarm.
In another attempt to frame war with Iraq as a test of moral courage, Mr. Bush in his weekly radio address yesterday said "governments are now showing whether their stated commitments to liberty and security are words alone or convictions they are prepared to act upon."
Mr. Bush, who spent the day at Camp David, spoke by telephone to Mr. Blair and Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conferred by telephone with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio.
British officials indicated that London was resigned to the likelihood of a military strike against Iraq. "The prospect of military action is now much more probable and I greatly regret that but it is not inevitable," Mr. Straw told the BBC.
Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, Jeremy Greenstock, said war was only days away, describing today's summit as a "last chance" for Saddam to disarm peacefully.
The reaction of Mr. Bush and senior advisers to anti-war sentiment, and to expressions of anti-Americanism, has been that the United States must do what is right, and that its judgment will be validated when Saddam is ousted and Iraqis are under democratic rule.
Despite evidence presented by Mr. Powell that Iraq has hidden vast quantities of dangerous weapons and lied about it, the prevailing sentiment on the Security Council is to extend U.N. weapons searches and defer war.
There may be a vote this week, or Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and Mr. Aznar may conclude at their meeting in Portugal's Azores to withdraw the resolution either because they lack nine votes or because it would deny France the opportunity to cast a veto.
Turkey's new government yesterday signaled it would wait at least another week before deciding on the deployment of U.S. forces from its soil.
A senior Bush administration official said an offer of $15 billion in economic aid had been withdrawn and that the United States was proceeding with plans that do not include Turkey.
On Friday, Mr. Bush cleared the way for Pakistan to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid blocked after a military coup in 1999 brought Gen. Pervez Musharraf to power.
A decision to withdraw the proposed U.N. resolution would mark a reversal for the administration. On March 6, Mr. Bush said he was prepared for a vote, win or lose.
At the summit today, Mr. Bush was making what his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, calls "a last push to see if we can convince people to take on their responsibilities."

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