WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday if President Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq, there will be no war.
"People are hoping that war can be avoided," Powell said. "I hope it can be avoided. But the one who has the power in his hands to decide whether there will be a war or peace is Saddam Hussein."
Declaring the Iraqi leader had made no serious offer to cooperate with U.N. disarmament demands, Powell said that "if he complies, or if he leaves the country tomorrow, there will be no war."
However, Powell told Russia's RTR Television before beginning a five-day trip to Asia, "the problem is he has shown no signs of leaving the country and he still shows no signs of complying. ..."
Bracing for a showdown at the United Nations, the United States and Britain plan to present a new resolution to the Security Council on Monday in a bid to gain support for using force to disarm Iraq.
The move runs against strong sentiment within the council that force as an option should be set aside for further inspections at least until U.N. inspectors file a new report of their findings.
The two allies evidently are willing to risk diplomatic defeat. But President Bush has vowed to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein one way or another — with U.N. support or with the help of a "coalition of the willing."
Finishing touches were being put on the resolution. France, which heads an anti-war bloc, has the power to kill it by veto.
Powell told French and German television Thursday that he did not expect the resolution to set a deadline for Iraq to disarm.
"I wouldn't expect the resolution itself to have a timeline," Powell told German TV N24, "but time is running out."
The text of the proposal "will clearly point out Iraq's failure to comply" with the resolution adopted unanimously by the council last November threatening "serious consequences" if it continued to defy U.N. disarmament resolutions, Powell said.
Iraq has provided no more information on its weapons programs and "it's rather shocking that some members of the Security Council would find this acceptable behavior," Powell told France's Channel One TF-1.
Britain has favored setting a deadline in the resolution, a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Friday.
The two allies' strategy is to seek the support of nine of the 15 council members, the minimum required for passage of a resolution. However, a veto by France, Russia or China, that would kill it, has not been ruled out, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The chief U.N. weapons inspectors are expected to file a report to the five permanent council members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, at the end of next week and then appear before the council for questioning the following week, the official said.
In the meantime, American and British diplomats continued to work Friday on a text of the new resolution, and made their first tentative efforts to gain support from other delegations, a senior U.S. official said.
The outcome is uncertain, and the push for approval has just begun, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Powell told reporters at the State Department, meanwhile, that a headcount of who was for or against a new resolution on the 15-member council would be "academic" because the resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament had not been put forward.
"We won't put a resolution down unless we intend to fight for the resolution, unless we believe we can make the case that it is appropriate," Powell said at a news conference.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday evening the buildup of tens of thousands of U.S. and British troops in the Persian Gulf region has reached the point that they could launch an invasion if the president orders one. Asked on PBS' NewsHour With Jim Lehrer whether the forces massed in the area were ready to go to war, Rumsfeld replied: "Yes."
Powell, who took off for Japan on Friday for the start of a five-day Asia trip dominated by concern over North Korea's nuclear program, juggled resolution diplomacy with stressful negotiations with Turkey, a potential key ally in a war with Iraq.
The Turkish ambassador to Washington, Faruk Logoglu, told The Associated Press on Thursday that "we are very close to an agreement" on a U.S. economic assistance package that could set the stage for stationing American troops on Turkish soil.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, Iraq allowed another flight by an American U-2 surveillance plane as Saddam's government sought to convince the world that it is cooperating with the weapons inspectors.
In New York, a U.N. spokesman said Iraq also had submitted a list of 83 people involved in the destruction of banned weapons — a key demand by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix.
And in an interview published by the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the exiled opposition group known as the Iraqi National Congress, denounced the United Nations for its "fecklessness" on Iraq.
He said over the years it has been "a false witness" to genocide, repression and deportation "not only in Iraq, but all over the world."