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The Orlando Sentinel March 5, 2003

U.S. TO PUSH VOTE NEXT WEEK IN U.N.

By Robin Wright and Maggie Farley, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Despite wavering votes among key countries and Russia's hardening opposition, the United States and Britain intend to call for a U.N. Security Council vote next week on their resolution endorsing a war against Iraq, according to U.N. officials.

The Bush administration is also considering the possible use of an ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- either to disarm or to step aside, possibly with a deadline -- as one element of a final strategy, according to U.S. officials.

In the meantime, the administration said Tuesday that even the risk of a veto would not necessarily lead Washington to withdraw the resolution, in part because forcing a vote might lead key countries to change their previously negative positions.

"We're coming to a Yogi Berra moment: When you come to a fork in the road, you have to take it, and putting people in that position may lead them to do something other than veto," a senior State Department official said.

"It's all about facing the reality of the whole story coming out about Iraq hiding weapons -- and not wanting to be on the wrong side of reality when someone finds an undeclared chemical-weapon shell," the official said.

U.S. calculations on what will go into the final Security Council vote led Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a blaze of interviews with the European media Tuesday, to talk confidently about the controversial resolution.

"I am 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," Powell told France 2 television.

Iraq's latest pledge to provide new information on biological and chemical weapons to U.N. inspections teams will not affect the U.S. position, Powell said.

"It changes the propaganda battle, but it doesn't change reality. Reality is that they are still trying to deceive, they are still trying to send us down rat holes. Reality is that they have not made a strategic decision to comply with [U.N. Resolution] 1441" on total disarmament, he told Britain's ITN television.

Powell also warned not to underestimate Saddam's ability to "play" to the world's preference for peace as a means of retaining any weapons of mass destruction he may possess. As a result, now is the "appropriate" time to call for a vote in the Security Council, Powell told Germany's RTL television.

The schedule for a vote would allow the White House to keep to the tentative time frame for launching an attack on Iraq, likely later this month, U.S. officials said. One big hitch, however, remains the Turkish parliament's failure to support a U.S. request to use military bases in Turkey as a staging area for 62,000 troops to open a northern front against Iraq. Waiting to see whether the parliament will vote again could force a slight delay.

GRAPHIC: MAP: U.S. holds out hope for Turkish front; On Saturday, the Turkish parliament rejected a plan to allow U.S. troops to use bases in the country to stage an invasion into northern Iraq. On Tuesday, Turkish officials indicated there would be another vote on the issue. The United States hopes to use these bases in the event of war to gain control of Iraq's northern air bases and oil fields.; (Major Turkish air bases; Iraqi air bases; Northern Iraqi oil fields);

SOURCES: GlobalSecurity.org, GeoDesign; KNIGHT RIDDER TRIBUNE


Copyright 2003, Sentinel Communications Co.