UNITED NATIONS (AP) – As opposition hardened against a war with Iraq, Britain offered yesterday to compromise on a U.S.-backed resolution by giving Saddam Hussein a short deadline to prove he has eliminated all banned weapons or face an attack.

Shabina Khatri
French Foreign Minister Dominque de Villepin shakes hands with Colin Powell.

With some 300,000 U.S. troops massing for battle, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made clear that any compromise must still include an authorization for military action.

But Straw’s demand, made a day before a crucial Security Council meeting, was unlikely to be acceptable to key council powers that favor more weapons inspections to disarm Iraq peacefully.

President Bush, in a rare prime-time news conference yesterday, said the United States will call for a Security Council vote even if it appears certain that the resolution will be defeated but he added that he isn’t afraid to go to war if the council rejects the resolution.

“We’re days away from resolving this issue in the Security Council,” Bush said. “No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for a vote. … It’s time for people to show their cards and let people know where they stand in relation to Saddam.”

“As far as ultimatums, we’ll wait and see,” Bush also said.

The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain, says Iraq missed its “final opportunity” to disarm peacefully and paves the way for war.

The United States faces an uphill struggle to get nine “yes” votes and avoid a veto by one of the permanent members opposed to war soon.

Yesterday, China threw its support behind France, Germany and Russia, which have vowed to prevent the resolution’s passage.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to council members to discuss the crisis calmly, noting there were several proposals on the table.

“The positions are very hard now,” he said. “I am encouraging people to strive for a compromise to seek common ground,” adding, “to make concessions, you get concessions.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in New York yesterday to try to win support for the resolution from undecided council members.

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