- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) — The expiration of diplomacy for Iraq Monday prompted a key minister to resign in London, a harsh rebuke in Paris, and a whole lot of telephone diplomacy from Washington.

With the threat of a French veto remaining in the United Nations, the president and his top advisers Monday morning decided not to seek a second Security Council resolution to essentially authorize war with Iraq, prompting his secretary of state to break the news to foreign capitals.

In London, former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook resigned and it is expected that Britain's International Development Minister Clare Short will follow suit as a result of the British, Spanish and U.S. decision to issue a final ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin blasted the decision. He said in a statement, "Despite the will clearly expressed by the international community, the United States, Britain and Spain underlined today their determination to resort to force." He added that the decision was not justified and risked "serious consequences" for the region.

U.S. officials, however, said that they believed they were closer to the nine votes they needed in the Security Council to pass a final resolution stating Iraq had failed to disarm, than the French let on.

"The only people who wanted a vote at the U.N. were the French, and we were not going to give them the photo op," one senior State Department official told reporters. This official described Secretary of State Colin Powell's phone call with de Villepin as "straightforward," adding, "It did not advance the issue in any way."

Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We spent a great deal of time overnight and early this morning talking to friends and colleagues around the world about the resolution, and it was our judgment, reached by the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain that no further purpose would be served by pushing this resolution."

President George W. Bush is expected Monday evening to address the nation where he will give Saddam a final ultimatum to leave the country or face a U.S.-led war.

Starting at 7 a.m. Monday morning, Powell gave new meaning to the phrase "working the phones." He had conversations with his counterparts in Britain, Spain, France, Russia, Australia, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Japan, China, Guinea, Cameroon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, Italy, Chile, Turkey and the Vatican.

He also spoke by phone with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, and the chief diplomat for the European Union, Javier Solana.

A senior State Department said the secretary "explained why we would not seek a vote on a new resolution and thanked those who had worked with us and prepared to join us in the vote."

On Sunday, Bush said with his British, Portuguese and Spanish counterparts in the Azores that there would be 24 hours left to try to get one more resolution in the United Nations.

But by Monday morning, it appeared there was no chance of passage for such a resolution. By nine in the morning, the United States, Spain and Britain had decided not seek a Security Council vote.

Shortly afterwards, Powell instructed the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, to announce the news. But it was actually Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador, who made the announcement.

Powell Monday took a rare opportunity to respond to criticisms that he had not traveled enough to foreign capitals to line up the votes for war. "You do your job by personal contacts, by contact, by travel and by the use of modern technology so that you can get more bang for the time," Powell said.

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