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White House to Call for UN Iraq Vote This Week - 2003-03-11


The White House says it will call for a vote this week on a new U.N. resolution on Iraq, despite opposition by key members of the Security Council. U.S. officials say they could make some small changes in the resolution, but will not agree to a major extension of the March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says no matter what happens, there will be a vote this week.

He says the period leading up to the vote is a time of intense diplomacy, with President Bush calling foreign leaders and discussions underway at U.N. headquarters.

"We are still in an important diplomatic phase in New York," he said. "The consultations with our allies are ongoing and they are important."

He says changes are possible in the resolution, as the United States and Britain search for a formula that can win the necessary support. Some council members have suggested extending the disarmament deadline by as much as 45 days. But Mr. Fleischer makes clear the Bush administration will not go that far.

"Well, the president thinks there is a little room for a little more diplomacy but not much time," he said. "Any suggestion of 30 days to 45 days is a non-starter."

Technically, a resolution needs nine votes on the 15-member Security Council to pass. But the five permanent council members have veto power and two, France and Russia, say they are prepared to vote "no."

Mr. Fleischer was asked why President Bush wants to go ahead with a resolution under veto threat. He indicated that it will be a victory of sorts if at least nine members vote "yes."

"This remains an important test of the United Nations Security Council and a chance for these nations to show that, while they serve as rotating members of the Security Council, they stand for giving resolutions meaning and impact," he said.

Originally, the White House had planned to call for a vote Tuesday. Instead, the council held an open meeting to give all U.N. members a chance to express their views on Iraq.

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