- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 16 (UPI) — Vice President Dick Cheney warned Sunday that in the next few days, President George W. Bush will have to make "a very, very difficult decision" about Iraq.

"Clearly the president is going to have to make a very, very difficult and important decision in the next few days," Cheney told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Indicating that diplomatic efforts to avert a military showdown with the Arab nation were near an end, he opposed giving further time to Iraq because he said it would only help Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Several members of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council have urged the United States to give Saddam more time to accept U.S. demands. Washington has insisted that Saddam give up his alleged weapons of mass destruction or face military action.

"There is no question we are close to the end of the diplomatic efforts," Cheney declared, while explaining why giving more time to Iraq would not help.

He was dismissive of a French proposal to give another 30 to 60 days to Iraq to disarm before launching an offensive, signaling an end to U.S. efforts to win over Security Council members who have refused to endorse the U.S. position.

"It's difficult for us to believe that 30 days or 60 more days are going to change anything. We're approaching the point where further delay helps no one but Saddam Hussein," he said.

Cheney spoke as Bush met with the leaders of Britain, Spain and Portugal in the Azores to decide upon a course of action. While the administration didn't involve other nations in those talks, Bush was to continue telephoning other world leaders for support. He has spoken to dozens of world leaders during the past week.

The United States, Britain and Spain have jointly sponsored a U.N. resolution that seeks the organization's support for going to war against Iraq if it does not disarm soon.

France and Russia have already threatened to veto the proposal, and other U.N. members are unwilling to endorse it.

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