- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The United States yesterday declared the diplomatic page of the Iraq crisis closed and began a swift round of last-minute prewar consultations with countries around the world.
After Washington and its allies withdrew a U.N. Security Council draft resolution authorizing the use of force against Baghdad, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called 24 foreign leaders to explain why the measure was not put to a vote and to thank those nations that had supported it.
"The time for diplomacy has passed," Mr. Powell told reporters at the State Department. "I can think of nothing that Saddam Hussein could do diplomatically. That time is now over. He has had his chance. He's had many chances over the last 12 years and he's blown every one of those chances."
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered U.N. employees, including weapons inspectors, to leave Iraq. Diplomats and journalists also were departing as military action appeared to be just days away.
Wire services yesterday obtained copies of a document prepared by chief arms inspector Hans Blix listing a dozen outstanding questions that he said Iraq must answer about its weapons programs.
But the Bush administration made clear that it would consider the report's contents irrelevant. "I don't think that's where the action is anymore," a senior State Department official said.
U.S. officials were heartened last night by announcements that Australia would contribute 2,000 troops and Poland 200 to the war effort, bringing the number of active participants in the "coalition of the willing" to four.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also said his government had given all Iraqi Embassy staff in Canberra five days to leave the country, saying the action "will contribute to the security of Australia and Australian forces fighting in Iraq."
The United States has asked 60 countries to throw out Iraqis believed to work for Baghdad's intelligence services.
Turkey, which shocked U.S. war planners when its parliament failed to approve the use of its bases for the war effort, yesterday signaled that it may hold another vote on the issue as early as tomorrow.
"Turkey has decided to take urgent steps to preserve its national interests," presidential spokesman Tacan Ildem told reporters after a meeting of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president and the military chief of staff.
In London, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced in Parliament a resolution backing Britain's participation in a military operation to disarm Iraq. The document will be debated and voted on today, but the opposition Conservative Party signaled it will support it.
Although Britain is the staunchest U.S. ally, British officials still say their goal is disarming Iraq and not regime change, which is now the Bush administration's objective.
At the United Nations, the blame game was being played, with the United States and Britain saying the French threat of veto killed the new resolution, while France said the reason for the failure was Washington's inability to secure the necessary nine votes in the Security Council.
"We believe that 10 members of the council at one point or another were willing to support our approach," Britain's U.N. ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, told reporters.
"But when they knew there would be a veto come what may, there was no need for them to work out whatever domestic or international cost there might be for them in supporting the resolution," he said.
U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte said, "The atmosphere and the context of our entire discussion was affected by the fact that one permanent member explicitly stated that it was intent on frustrating the purposes of our draft resolution."
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said recent proposals from France, Germany and Russia "do not enforce" Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously in November, "but seek to rewrite it."
The Bush administration responded to accusations that war against Iraq at this time is illegal by pointing to U.N. resolutions 678, 687 and 1441, all of which warned Baghdad of "serious consequences" if it failed to disarm.

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