- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

France and Russia vowed yesterday to block a new U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, but the Bush administration gave Baghdad only a "few days" to make a "strategic" choice to disarm or face war.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in a speech two days before what could be the U.N. weapons inspectors' final report to the Security Council, said it was clear that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had failed his final test.
"He is betting, however, that his contempt for the will of the international community is stronger than the collective resolve of the Security Council to impose its will," Mr. Powell said.
In New York, diplomats at the United Nations said Britain is working on an amendment to a U.S.-backed resolution that would give Iraq more time to comply with disarmament demands and convince wavering U.N. Security Council members of the necessity of military action.
In his speech, Mr. Powell said Saddam "is betting that some members of the council will not sanction the use of force, despite all the evidence of his continued refusal to disarm."
But "if Iraq complies and disarms, even at this late hour, it is possible to avoid war," the secretary said.
"The question remains as it was at the beginning: Has Saddam Hussein made that strategic choice? He has not, and we will see in the next few days whether or not he understands the situation he is in and he makes that choice," he said.
Last night, the United States announced that it has requested the departure of two Iraqi attaches from the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations.
"They have been asked to depart by midnight March 7," a State Department official said.
The department said the two were asked to leave because they were engaging in activities outside their official functions.
In Paris, meanwhile, the foreign ministers of France, Russia and Germany said in a joint declaration after a meeting that they "will not allow a draft resolution authorizing the recourse to force to pass."
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France and Russia "will assume all their responsibilities" as permanent Security Council members with veto power in a vote on the new resolution. The measure was introduced last week by the United States, Britain and Spain.
Mr. de Villepin and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said inspections had shown "encouraging" progress, notably by Iraq's destruction of 19 of its 100 banned al Samoud 2 missiles, its promise to hand over more arms documents and its agreement to allow seven scientists to be interviewed in private.
In New York, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, said Iraq had recently engaged in "real disarmament" and that a war at this time would discredit the concept of disarmament through inspections.
"Here, weapons that can be used in war are destroyed in fairly large quantities. There is a whole program, and it is the various items that are related to that, like launchers, casting chambers, et cetera. These are being destroyed," Mr. Blix said in reference to the missiles.
But Mr. Powell said Iraq was hiding machinery to secretly make al Samoud missiles and had no intention of destroying all of its existing missiles.
"From recent intelligence, we know that the Iraqi regime intends to declare and destroy only a portion of its banned al Samoud inventory," he said in his speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "It has, in fact, ordered the continued production of the missiles that you see being destroyed."
The secretary, who presented intelligence information to the Security Council on Feb. 5 in an attempt to prove Iraq was deceiving the inspectors, said Saddam's regime is "still moving weapons of mass destruction materials around the country."
It transported some of them "far from Baghdad," close to the Syrian and Turkish borders in late January, he added, and in mid-February it was "transferring banned materials in old vehicles."
Referring to the members of the Security Council, Mr. Powell said Saddam's tactics are meant "to split us into arguing factions."
"There are divisions among us," he said. "If these divisions continue, they will convince Saddam Hussein that he is right. But I assure you, he is wrong."
The United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria publicly support the new draft resolution, 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.
Despite yesterday's joint declaration in Paris, the White House said it was optimistic about the outcome of the vote, which could come as early as next week.
"Don't leap to conclusions about the final vote. You will continue to hear various statements by various people around the world," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.
Mr. Powell and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Syria said yesterday they planned to attend a council meeting tomorrow.
In Turkey, whose parliament on Saturday rejected a government proposal to let 60,000 U.S. troops deploy in the country to set up a northern front against Iraq, the military said it backed the motion.
"The war will be short if a second front is opened from the north," Chief of General Staff Hilmi Ozkok said yesterday.
Ankara has signaled it could put forward a new motion on U.S. troops, and its hand would be strengthened if the Security Council passed the U.S.-backed draft resolution.
In the meantime, a 60-page U.N. document obtained by the London Times said the United Nations may be called upon within months to take over from a U.S.-led military coalition and prepare the way for a new Iraqi regime.
Some countries have objected to any effort by the United Nations to define a postwar role, saying it would signal that the world body has concluded that conflict is inevitable.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said U.N. officials have done extensive exploratory work for a transitional U.N.-run authority in Iraq, but he denied the existence of a secret plan "for administering post-conflict Iraq."
"We have no mandate to make such plans," Mr. Annan said.

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