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U.S. pushing new Iraq vote

President Bush says he ''respectfully disagrees'' with antiwar demonstrators.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 19, 2003

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States and Britain vowed to move forward as early as today with a new resolution for the use of military force to disarm Iraq even as an open debate in the U.N. Security Council laid bare deep opposition to war.

A second resolution could come after the end of a two-day session that began Tuesday during which nations not on the 15-member Security Council were given the chance to vent their displeasure with the way the Iraqi crisis was being handled.

In Washington, President Bush insisted that a second U.N. resolution "would be useful" but was not necessary to use military force.

Bush said war would be his last choice.

"But the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned," he said. "(Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein is a threat to America. Saddam Hussein is providing links to terrorists. And we will deal with him."

Although aware of the widespread demonstrations against war over the weekend, Bush said he reserved the right to "respectfully disagree" with those who didn't believe Hussein was a threat to world peace.

"You know, size of protest, it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group. The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security -- in this case, the security of the people," Bush said.

White House officials returned to work after the holiday weekend prepared to respond to the weekend demonstrations, in which 6-million participants participated worldwide -- the largest antiwar protests since the Vietnam era.

At his morning briefing, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer brought newspaper clippings from the 1980s, when Europeans protested NATO's deployment of intermediate-range missiles. Fleischer said the weapons systems ultimately helped bring an end to the Cold War.

In 1983, he said, "The United States stood on principle; the American president did what he thought was right to preserve the peace.

"As a result, the Berlin Wall came down, and the message of the protesters -- 'Better neutral than dead' -- turned out to be a false message," Fleischer said. "The point I'm making is that mass street protests don't always lead to the results that people think. The fear, the militarism, the fear that is expressed by the protesters doesn't always take place. Often the message of the protesters is contradicted by history."

The Security Council voted unanimously on Nov. 8 for U.N. Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq one last chance to comply with inspections and disarm or face "serious consequences."

Trans-Atlantic divisions have erupted in recent weeks over how long to give U.N. inspectors, who have been searching Iraq for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

"There are no time limits stipulated for inspections in 1441," said South African Ambassador Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, urging that inspections be given ample time to show results.

The open U.N. session was requested by South Africa to allow nations to publicly air their positions on Iraq. Representatives from some 70 countries -- most of whom were expected to voice opposition to war -- have asked to speak.

A second Security Council resolution is expected to be a short, straightforward assertion that Iraq has defied calls by the United Nations to give up its weapons of mass destruction and now faces the "serious consequences" threatened in the previous resolution.

Both Jacques Chirac, the French president, and Gerhard Schroder, the German chancellor, have this week criticized the idea of a second resolution. Chirac has said France will oppose the measure.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said Tuesday that the large antiwar demonstrations in his country would not affect his alliance with the United States on the issue of Iraq.

"Of course I understand the concerns of the thousands who marched on Saturday, and of course I should and do listen to those concerns," Blair said.

But he said the world should also listen to the voices of Iraqi exiles, who, he said, have made a case that Hussein's government is "one of the most barbarous and detestable regimes in modern political history."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, continued intensive discussions Tuesday with the British and others on the wording of the new resolution. Administration officials said the measure might not be voted on for another two weeks.

By early March, the Bush administration expects that chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will be prepared to make a more negative appraisal of Iraq's cooperation than he did before the Security Council on Friday. Officials said Blix gave them that impression in private.

Blix is being pressed by the United States to set benchmarks over the next several weeks, demanding that Iraq fulfill its obligations in at least three areas: allowing unimpeded interviews with scientists, destroying illegal rockets and allowing unconditional overflights by reconnaissance planes.

A refusal to cooperate on any of these would make it more clear that Hussein is defying the inspectors.

Canadian officials, meanwhile, said they would not participate in a war against Iraq unless it was approved by the Security Council. "We have not been asked and we do not intend to participate in a group of the willing," Prime Minister Jean Chretien said in Ottawa.

Lack of interviews frustrates U.N. inspectors

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- When the first Iraqi scientist agreed to sit for a private interview with weapons inspectors without any official "minder" present, officials hoped that it was the beginning of an end to the dispute over interviews that had called into question Iraq's willingness to cooperate with the United Nations.

But now, nearly two weeks later, U.N. officials are becoming increasingly frustrated that Iraq is only paying lip service to the demand for private interviews. In fact, they say, they have not had one successful interview with any of the scientists that they had asked to speak to about Iraq's alleged biological and chemical weapons programs.

"There were roughly 30 attempts made to interview Iraqis in private, and three such interviews took place," Hiro Ueki, spokesman for the inspection teams in Baghdad for the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on Tuesday.

Each of those three individuals had been suggested by the Iraqis, he said. On the other hand, none of the scientists that UNMOVIC has proposed for questioning have agreed to private interviews. Instead, most insisted on making a tape recording of the interview or on having a relative or friend present.

"We hope that Iraqi interviewees will eventually accept being interviewed in private under UNMOVIC's terms," Ueki said.

-- Information from Cox News Service, the Los Angeles Times and New York Times was used in this report.

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