WASHINGTON (AP) – Adopting a two-pronged strategy to avert a U.N. defeat, the Bush administration once again portrayed Iraq as in violation of international demands that it disarm, but signaled a willingness to revise its troubled resolution endorsing the use of force.
As new evidence to condemn Saddam Hussein as a deceptive cheat, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his spokesman cited the development of drone airplanes and cluster bombs, both capable of spreading chemicals. Powell said the world should be concerned.
Hoping to win the support of U.N. Security Council fence-sitters, U.S. and British diplomats consulted with them on extending the March 17 deadline proposed last Friday for Iraq to disclose and eliminate all its hidden weapons of mass destruction.
In the process, a vote planned for today was postponed at least until later in the week. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described consultations on the March 17 deadline as “fluid.”
President Bush and Powell pressed their diplomacy to secure at least the minimally required nine votes for adoption of the resolution. The foreign minister of Guinea, Francois Fall, said after a luncheon meeting with Powell that Guinea and other council members were “in intensive consultations in order to find a compromise.”
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed that revising the tough resolution in a bid to gain support was being considered.
“We are obviously listening to other governments as we talk to them, and we’ll see where we come out on this. At this point I don’t want to predict anything either way,” Boucher said.
Still, opposition by France and Russia loomed as huge hurdles for the resolution devised jointly by the United States, Britain and Spain.
In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac said France was prepared to veto the resolution, if necessary, and joined Russia in saying the two nations would vote against a March 17 deadline.
While Tuesday had not been officially set as the date for a vote on the resolution U.S. officials made clear it was the intention.
Signaling a change in timing, Fleischer declined to predict when the resolution would be taken up. “It certainly could be any day later than tomorrow,” he said.
Powell, meanwhile, voiced concern over the discovery that Iraq has unmanned drone aircraft capable of dispensing chemical weapons.
Disclosure last week by U.N. weapons inspectors that Iraq had such aircraft “should be of concern to everybody,” Powell said. “This and other information shows Iraq has not changed.”
Iraq also has developed a version of a South African cluster bomb that could disperse chemical weapons over a target, Boucher said.
Iraq has said that it has destroyed all chemical warheads.
Bush, meanwhile worked the telephone to stave off a U.N. Security Council defeat. He spoke by telephone to eight world leaders, the biggest burst of telephone calls since October 2001 when he marshaled support for the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
Bush talked to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Turkish governing party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.