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Bush, Blair, Aznar to Hold Sunday Meeting - 2003-03-15

President Bush will meet with the leaders of Britain and Spain in the Azores Islands, off the coast of Portugal Sunday, for what is being described as a final attempt to gain United Nations support for military action against Iraq. After weeks of debate, the U.N. Security Council appears hopelessly divided on the question of Iraqi disarmament. The White House is describing Sunday's meeting as perhaps the last chance to avoid war.

The one day summit, to be held at a U.S. airbase in the Azores, comes at a time when diplomatic efforts within the U.N. Security Council on Iraq appear to be on the verge of collapse and with increasing signs that President Bush is close to ordering military action for Baghdad's alleged failure to disarm.

"We are rapidly approaching the final diplomatic moments," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "The purpose of this is to give diplomacy this last, final chance."

None of the Security Council nations that are undecided or outright opposed to military action have been invited to attend Sunday's summit, an indication the Bush administration and its British and Spanish allies have virtually given up on gaining support for a proposed resolution for quick military action.

"We have no agreement so far on the draft resolution," said Gunter Pleuger, Germany's U.N. Ambassador"

If nothing changes over the weekend, the Bush administration is now considering abandoning a vote in the Security Council and setting an ultimatum for Iraq to disarm or face a U.S.-led attack.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer Friday flatly dismissed a new compromise put forward by Chile that would give Baghdad several more weeks to account for all its chemical and biological weapons Iraq says it has long ago destroyed, comparing the idea to previous proposals that would have only extended Baghdad's disarmament deadline. "I was asked several days ago about whether or not the president would be open to extending the deadline 30 to 45 days," said Mr. Fleischer. "Now you could say that's 26 to 41 days. If it was a nonstarter then, it's a nonstarter now."

And in a sign of just how deadlocked the United Nations Security Council is on the matter, Council president, Guinea, announced Friday no new formal meetings on Iraq within the council have been scheduled.