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Bush, Closest Allies Agree on Final Iraq Diplomatic Push - 2003-03-16

President Bush and his closest allies have agreed on one final diplomatic push to win world backing for Iraq's swift disarmament. This comes as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein vows to "fight anywhere in the world," if the United States leads an invasion.

President Bush called Monday the "moment of truth" on Iraq. "We'll be working on the phones, talking to our partners, talking to those who may not clearly understand the objective. And we'll see how it goes [Monday]," he said.

Mr. Bush Sunday challenged other countries to support the U.S., British, and Spanish efforts. "Many nations have voiced a commitment to peace and security, and now, they must demonstrate that commitment to peace and security in the only effective way, by supporting the immediate and unconditional disarmament of Saddam Hussein," he said.

President Bush spoke in the Azores, following a hastily-arranged summit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and host, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso.

Efforts by the U.S.-led coalition to secure U.N. support for military force against Iraq faltered last week in the face of French-led opposition. U.N. diplomats say the issue is at an impasse, but that there are last-ditch efforts in the Security Council to reach some sort of consensus.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to present a report this week, outlining Iraq's remaining tasks and how long it has to complete them.

Standing next to President Bush in the Azores Sunday, Mr. Blair did not say whether the proposed U.N. resolution authorizing military force against Iraq would be withdrawn. But he did dismiss the need for further discussion on the issue, adding that U.N. Resolution 1441, which the Security Council approved unanimously four months ago, was Saddam Hussein's final opportunity to disarm.

"Some say there should be no ultimatum, no authorization of force in any new U.N. resolution; instead, more discussion in the event of noncompliance," he said. "But the truth is that without a credible ultimatum authorizing force in the event of noncompliance, then more discussion is just more delay."

In Baghdad, Saddam Hussein called allegations that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction "a great lie," and vowed to "fight anywhere in the world," if the United States leads an invasion against it.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Fox News Sunday there is one way the Iraqi leader could avoid war. "If Saddam Hussein, his sons and a number of top leaders were to leave, and a more responsible leadership were to come in, a leadership that was determined to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction, as they are supposed to, and start to provide a better life for the Iraqi people, then a war certainly could be averted," he said.

But Secretary Powell indicated that he is not optimistic Saddam Hussein would leave Iraq willingly.