- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) — President George W. Bush on Wednesday remained confident that a U.N. resolution seeking authorization for war against Iraq would pass even as foreign ministers for France, Germany and Russia say they would stop the measure.

"I think it's not accurate to leap to any conclusions about how these nations will actually vote when it comes down to it and when the members of the Security Council have to raise their hands and be counted," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Foreign ministers for the three opposing nations gathered in Paris for an emergency meeting on the potential U.S.-led war on Iraq. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Wednesday that Russia would use its veto at the U. N. Security Council.

"Yes, we will use our right of veto," the Russian minister said according to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. The ministers issued a joint statement saying Russia and France were ready to "assume full responsibility on this issue."

The ministers met ahead of the U. N. Security Council meeting set for March 7, when chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix is expected to deliver another progress report on the inspections in Iraq.

"Our common goal is to achieve real and complete disarmament in Iraq in compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. We believe that it is possible to implement it only by peaceful means, i.e. through inspections," a joint statement issued by the three ministers said.

Bush has had difficulty finding strong international support for an offensive against Iraq. He has launched an aggressive public relations campaign, speaking with world leaders almost daily by telephone to make his case for the assault. On Tuesday he spoke by telephone with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of India and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

The administration has appeared ever close to war as Bush continues to say that Iraq would be forced to disarm in "weeks not months," leading many to believe that the Arab nation can do little at this point to appease the United States.

Bush's top military brass including Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who would lead U.S. forces into Iraq, met with the president for a military planning meeting in the White House Situation Room early Wednesday. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, CIA Director George Tenet and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Meyers participated in the session.

During a briefing later in the day Franks said military forces were trained and ready should Bush decide to use force. The United States has moved some 200,000 troops into the region.

"There is no doubt we will prevail," said Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command.

Pope John Paul II dispatched his envoy Cardinal Pio Laghi to meet with Bush Wednesday on the Iraq crisis. Laghi comes to the United States carrying a message for the president from the Holy See.

Fleischer said that there had been a "lot of guessing" on how many votes the United States would get in the Security Council and that it was speculation the White House had seen before.

"We have seen similar statements made in the past by various officials, and I think the one day we'll know for certain where nations stand is when it comes time to raise hands and vote in the United Nations," Fleischer said Wednesday.

Any U.S. measure, however, would need the support or abstentions from veto-bearing France and Russia. Their foreign ministers maintained that Iraq "continues eliminating missiles and giving information on biological and chemical weapons" and said inspections should be stepped up.

The United States has decried Iraq's failure to account for missing biological and chemical weapons, its stockpile of al-Samoud 2 missiles and what it calls the Iraqi government's brutality toward its citizens.

The United States, Britain and Spain introduced a draft resolution late Monday afternoon during a meeting of the Security Council in New York. The three nations declared that, "Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441."

Resolution 1441 demanded that Iraq account for its cache of missing munitions and biochemical weapons and immediately disarm or face "serious consequences."

Ivanov said the three nations proceed from the view that the road "we propose is the most rational one, not only regarding the settlement of the Iraq problem, but also in regard to coping with other challenges, above all that of fighting terrorism."

He stressed that "these aims can be achieved if the international community is united, and above all, if there is unity in the U.N. Security Council."

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