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United States, Britain, Spain Present New Iraq Resolution

By Colum Lynch
THE WASHINGTON POST -- united nations

The United States, Britain and Spain introduced a new draft Security Council resolution Monday declaring that Iraq has squandered its “final opportunity” to voluntarily disarm and laying the political and legal groundwork for a U.S.-led military invasion.

The introduction of the resolution, which recalls that the 15-nation council warned Iraq in November that it would face “serious consequences” if it did not scrap its banned weapons programs, marked the beginning of what U.S. and British officials characterized as the final push to win council backing for a decision to go to war.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who have been leading the opposition, responded with a diplomatic counteroffensive. Meeting in Berlin, they announced a new initiative that would ensure the continuation of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq at least through the middle of the summer. Russian President Vladimir Putin endorsed the proposal.

Turkey’s cabinet, meanwhile, agreed to host tens of thousands of American troops who probably would lead a ground invasion through northern Iraq.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer welcomed the decision but said, “There are still some ‘i’s to be dotted and ‘t’s to be crossed” before the deal is finalized and endorsed by the Turkish parliament.

President Bush expressed growing impatience with diplomacy, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the draft resolution introduced Monday would provide Iraq with a window of about “two weeks or so” to disarm or face a war.

“The Iraqi regime is not disarming as required by last fall’s unanimous vote of the Security Council,” Bush told the National Governors Association in Washington. “Saddam Hussein’s refusal to comply with the demands of the civilized world is a threat to peace, and it’s a threat to stability.”

Bush said the United States would work closely with the council’s members “in the days ahead” to ensure that the United Nations’ demands that Iraq end its weapons programs are enforced. He said the council’s reaction would be a test of whether the international body will remain “relevant as the world confronts the threats to the 21st century.

“We certainly hope that it does,” Bush said. “But one way or the other, Saddam Hussein, for the sake of peace and for the security of the American people, will be disarmed.”

Underscoring the seriousness of the American military threat, Air Force B-52 bombers began conducting training missions in the northern end of the Persian Gulf, not far from Iraq. “The missions will be conducted on a recurring basis and are designed to maintain air crew proficiency and familiarization,” according to the U.S. Central Command, which would oversee a war against Iraq.