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Security Council Iraq Vote Expected Later in Week - 2003-03-11

France and Russia, two permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, are stepping up threats to veto a U.S.-U.K.-Spanish draft resolution that would clear the way for a U.S.-led war to disarm Iraq. Washington, meanwhile, is stepping up a lobbying campaign among Security Council countries for passage of the draft.

A vote in the Security Council is expected later this week.

In an indication of just how much diplomatic work still needs to be done, President Bush cleared his schedule Monday to spend the day making calls to world leaders, seeking their support for the resolution that would, in effect, authorize military action if Iraq does not disarm by March 17th.

Meanwhile, both Russia and France have now declared they will vote against it. And, as permanent members of the Security Council, a "no" vote by either Moscow or Paris would kill the resolution even if it had the votes of nine council members needed for passage.

To increase the chances of passage, Britain is suggesting it is open to compromise and perhaps even an extension of the March 17 deadline for Iraqi disarmament. One idea the British government raised is for Iraq to be given a specific list of disarmament demands, which Saddam Hussein would have to implement if his country is to avoid attack.

At this point, the White House is not willing to concede that the votes are not there, but spokesman Ari Fleischer strongly suggested a U.N. failure to approve military action to disarm Iraq would amount to a moral failure by the world body.

"As the world witnessed in Rwanda and as the world witnessed in Kosovo, the United Nations Security Council would have failed to act once again. And this is becoming a trend for the United Nations Security Council," he said.

At this point, the United States can count on only Britain, Spain and Bulgaria as supporting the resolution. Still, the Bush administration has no plans to withdraw it, and the White House expects a vote in the Security Council before the end of the week.

Both London and Washington say they will disarm Iraq one way or another, even if that means acting without U.N. authorization and angering long-time allies.