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US Rejects Arab Calls For Truce in War Against Iraq - 2003-03-25

The United States brushing aside Arab calls for a truce in the war with Iraq and a return of the issue to the United Nations. The State Department said the time for crisis solutions involving Saddam Hussein's government has passed.

Officials here are politely, but firmly, rejecting proposals from U.S. Arab allies and others that there be a halt to the military drive against Saddam Hussein and renewed political talks on Iraqi disarmament at the United Nations.

Arab league foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Monday called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. led forces from Iraq and an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the crisis.

Separately, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said his government was working on mediation overtures to the United States and Iraq to stop the fighting and to "take a breather" to see what diplomacy can accomplish.

At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was unaware of a new peace proposal from Saudi Arabia. But he made clear that the Bush administration is not interested in any diplomatic process that would involve, or leave in place, the government of Saddam Hussein.

"Unfortunately we think the time for cooperative solutions with this Iraqi regime has passed. Second of all, we've said very clearly our goal in Iraq is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to free the Iraqi people from the brutal and corrupt regime of Saddam Hussein. Peace proposals that leave the current Iraqi regime in place to once again threaten the international community, its neighbors, and Iraq's own people, are just not workable," Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Boucher said another open debate in the security council would only divert the council's attention from pressing current needs including the restructuring of the United Nations' "oil-for-food" program to keep needed supplies flowing to the Iraqi people.

The United States is co-sponsoring, with Britain, a security council resolution that would temporarily give the United Nations sole authority to replace the Iraqi government as the chief supplier of food, medicine and other essential to millions of Iraqis.

Spokesman Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell had two telephone conversations Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the pending resolution, and was hoping for an agreement soon, despite what officials here say is resistance to the U.S.-British draft from France.

More than 60 per cent of Iraq's 26 million people are entirely dependent on the oil-for-food program, which has been jointly administered by the United Nations and Iraq since 1996.