The Bush administration says it may not seek a vote in the U.N. Security Council on a draft resolution that would effectively authorize war against Iraq. This reversal comes as the United States and Britain continue to face strong opposition at the United Nations to any measure that would lead to quick military action against Iraq.
A week ago, President Bush said he would demand a Security Council vote on this resolution, telling reporters it is time for people to show their cards and let the world know where they stand. But with no sign that the measure has come any closer to attracting the votes of nine Security Council members needed for passage, the administration Thursday backed off that demand.
"The options remain [to] go for a vote and see what members say or not go for a vote," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "But all the options that you can imagine are before us."
This, after the Iraqi government rejected a British proposal offering Baghdad six ways of demonstrating a commitment to disarmament and a little more time for doing so. Britain was even willing to drop a demand that President Saddam Hussein go on Iraqi television and renounce weapons of mass destruction.
"If the only issue between us, our partners in the Security Council and Saddam Hussein is whether or not he makes a television broadcast, then we're happy to drop that," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri appeared confident his government has world opinion on its side and that the United Nations will not, in the end, approve a U.S. led attack on Iraq for its failure prove it has no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs.
"If the U.S. administration sticks to international law and listens carefully to world public opinion and to the opinion of its own people, it should not embark on any aggression against Iraq," he said.
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer is not saying exactly how much more time the Bush administration is prepared to allow the diplomatic process to play out before the military option becomes the only one left for disarming Iraq.
"The end is coming into sight," he said.
But debate over whether the United Nations should authorize military action against Iraq now appears headed into next week, and could run into Monday's proposed deadline for Iraq to show full compliance with disarmament demands. President Bush continues to stand by threats to take military action to disarm Iraq even without U.N. approval. Once the remaining diplomatic options are exhausted, the White House says the president will address the American people in what would amount to a final warning to Iraq that military action is imminent.