US in disarray as council support crumbles

Thursday, 13 March 2003 06:49 by: Anonymous

Editor's Note: According to CNN reports Monday night, the Bush administration has all but abandoned winning the Iraq vote in the Security Council.  Bush will, at some point, levy some form of ultimatum to Hussein after said vote, which will happen Thursday, or next week, or whenever. - wrp

U.S. in Disarray as Council Support Crumbles
By Marian Wilkinson
Sidney Morning Herald

Thursday 13 March 2003

As President George Bush stumbled in his bid for United Nations Security Council support, the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld has been forced to clarify explosive comments on Tuesday that Britain could pull out of the war against Iraq.

After speaking by phone with the British Defence Minister, Geoffrey Hoon, Mr Rumsfeld initially said that British forces may not participate in the war if the Security Council failed to pass a second resolution opening the way for military action.

"To the extent they're not [able to participate]", Mr Rumsfeld said, "there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it."

When asked whether the US would consider going to war without its closest ally, Mr Rumsfeld replied: "That is an issue that the President will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume."

In the uproar that followed and after discussions with the British embassy in Washington, Mr Rumsfeld quickly issued a clarification saying: "I have no doubt of the full support of the United Kingdom for the international community's efforts to disarm Iraq.

"In the event that a decision to use force is made, we have every reason to believe there will be a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom."

Mr Rumsfeld's gaffe was another indication of the diplomatic disarray in Washington over the second resolution.

The Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is working hard in New York to win the support of the majority of council members for a resolution. But Washington's attempts to win the six undecided votes on the Security Council floundered on Tuesday. Pakistani officials said it will abstain from a vote and a much-touted visit to Washington by the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, another key council member, was cancelled because of a "mix-up".

The US and Britain are still hoping to win a technical majority of nine votes. The US bid last Friday to put a deadline of March 17 on Iraq to fully disarm has undermined its efforts to win support. The allies are now proposing extending the deadline but only by days.

Canada has offered to broker a compromise which includes extending the deadline for another month. The chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has also told the council he can bring forward to next week his report setting out a timetable of tasks remaining for Iraq's disarmament.

But Mr Bush's spokesman has dismissed efforts to extend the deadline by a month. "Any suggestion of 30 days, 45 days, is a non-starter," Ari Fleischer said. "There's not much time". Mr Bush had indicated there was room for a little more diplomacy but, "the vote will take place this week".

While the diplomatic battle raged in New York, the air force exploded the largest non-nuclear bomb in US history, a 9545-kilogram device the military dubbed the "Mother of All Bombs".

Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, Chris Patten, the European Union External Relations Commissioner, warned that the EU might be unwilling to fund the reconstruction of Iraq if the US goes to war without UN authority.

"It will be that much more difficult for the EU to co-operate ... in the longer-term reconstruction process if events unfold without proper UN cover and if the [EU] member states remain divided," Mr Patten told the European Parliament yesterday.

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