- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

The United States said yesterday it is gaining support for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would pave the way to a war with Iraq and intends to put it to a vote as early as next week.
The Bush administration's optimistic assertions came despite public statements from senior Russian officials, who ruled out an abstention but not a veto, as well as emboldened anti-war rhetoric from China.
It appeared that the United States would settle for at least a nine-vote majority, which is required for passage of the resolution in the event no nation exercises a veto. Even if the resolution is blocked through a veto, the United States could say it had the majority support needed to justify military action.
But a senior administration official said last night that the U.S. strategy in pursuit of a nine-vote majority was based on the assumption that such an achievement would discourage any vetoes.
In interviews with several European television networks yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell indicated that his recent meetings and telephone conversations with Security Council members had left him more confident about the U.S.-British-Spanish draft.
"I'm increasingly optimistic that if it comes to a vote, we will be able to make a case that will persuade most of the members of the Security Council to vote for the resolution," Mr. Powell told France 2 television.
Another senior State Department official later told reporters, "We've had some very good calls from a lot of people, and we think we are making progress towards getting a decision out of the council."
The official added that by a "decision" he meant at least the nine votes necessary to pass the resolution. He did not mention the possibility of a veto.
Mr. Powell told Germany's RTL television that Washington "feels that it is appropriate to move forward with a vote in the absence of compliance on the part of [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein."
He said the Bush administration would not decide whether and when to put the new resolution to a vote until next week, after a report from top U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei to the Security Council on Friday.
But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher later predicted a vote "shortly after" the inspectors' briefing.
"Everything we have done is moving in that direction," he said. "[The council members] will have that opportunity to stand up and be counted."
The United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria publicly support the new draft, while France, Russia and China all permanent council members as well as Germany and Syria, oppose it. The six that have not yet publicly taken sides are Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan.
The officials did not specify which countries may be leaning toward Washington's position, but Mr. Boucher said Mr. Powell has spoken on the phone since the weekend with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Guinean Foreign Minister Francois Fall and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
While the secretary talked to Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Fall each once, he had two phone conversations with Mr. Derbez one on Monday and one yesterday after secretly meeting with him at the Powell residence in McLean on Saturday.
On Sunday, Mexico said it was working with the United States on the "unconditional disarmament" of Iraq.
President Bush, in an interview Monday with regional U.S. newspapers, said he does not "expect for there to be significant retribution" if Mexico or other countries oppose the United States, although he said "there will be a certain sense of discipline." But he added, "I expect Mexico to be with us."
Mr. Powell also has talked to the foreign ministers of Britain, Spain and Russia in the past couple of days, Mr. Boucher said.
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was the first to decide to attend Friday's Security Council meeting, followed by his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer. Most other foreign ministers are also expected to fly in for the meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who met with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London yesterday, said "it is unlikely any one of us would abstain" in a vote on the new resolution.
"There are certain issues where it is desirable that there are no abstentions among the permanent Security Council members, because these are serious issues," he told reporters.
"If the situation demands, Russia will of course use its right of veto," Mr. Ivanov said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.
China, emboldened by Russia's rhetoric, reiterated its call for inspections in Iraq to continue.
President Jiang Zemin discussed the issue in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"China adopts a very clear attitude in supporting the United Nations to continue arms inspections in Iraq and to take every possible method to avoid war," Xinhua paraphrased Mr. Jiang as saying.

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