WASHINGTON – President Bush prepared to meet with the leaders of Britain and Spain Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to get international support for their war resolution.
In a meeting billed as a bid "to pursue every last bit of diplomacy," the three will convene in the Azores, a traditional mid-Atlantic refueling stop about 900 miles west of Portugal. The Portuguese islands are considered diplomatically neutral ground, and Lisbon has granted the U.S. permission to use its Lajes Field air base there in a war against Iraq.
The hastily arranged summit will include talk about strategies for salvaging the troubled war resolution at the U.N. Security Council. The three leaders will talk about the language of the resolution as more doubts arise as to whether a vote will even take place.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will explore "all of the possibilities," indicating that Sunday's summit in the Azores Islands will include talk about waging war without U.N. approval.
"It is time to come to a conclusion that says to Saddam Hussein, it is time for you to disarm or be disarmed," she said.
The leaders also are likely to discuss plans for Iraq should President Saddam Hussein be deposed.
Deadlock at the U.N.
At the United Nations on Friday, officials said privately that diplomatic efforts were dead and the only question left was whether the three leaders would decide to abandon their resolution giving Hussein a Monday deadline to prove Iraq is disarming or face war — or put it to a vote and face certain defeat.
Although council diplomats met one-on-one and in small groups, no meeting of the 15 members was scheduled, a sign there was nothing left to discuss.
Still, diplomats did not give up hope.
"It's not over until it is over," said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"As long as there's a one percent possibility for peace we'll continue with our efforts," China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan said after meeting France's deputy ambassador.
But when asked if there was still one percent, he replied: "Everybody knows what's happening in that part of the world, such a big mass of the troops."
War Preparations Continue in the Middle East
In the Middle East, preparations for war continued. Eight U.S. warships crossed the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea Saturday to join the military buildup in the Middle East region, following five ships that passed through Friday.
United Nations weapons inspectors oversaw the destruction of three more Al Samoud 2 missiles and a launcher at al-Taji site 12 miles north of Baghdad on Saturday, U.N. spokesman Hiro Ueki said.
That means 68 of the Iraqi stock of about 100 of the missiles had been crushed since Baghdad met a March 1 deadline to start destroying them, ordered because they were found to have a range beyond the 93 miles permitted by the United Nations.
The inspectors visited Al-Qa Qa complex which produces chemical and explosives, 15 miles south of Baghdad in addition to a medicine warehouse.
In western Iraq, a U.S. bomber struck two anti-aircraft radar sites Friday, the first use of a heavy bomber against Iraq since December 1998.
An Iraqi Cabinet minister said his country can do little to avert an attack because the United States and Britain are intent on removing Saddam Hussein from power, no matter what.
"It is in the hands of the governments of the United States and Britain," Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh said. "Not in the hands of the government of Iraq."
The Iraqi state-run Al-Jumhuriya newspaper said Saturday that the United States and Britain were at an impasse in the Iraq crisis, "because of Iraq's steadfastness," and that "the world public and official opposition to their war threats against Iraq is growing."
Hundreds of thousands of Baghdad residents poured into the streets of the Iraqi capital Saturday to protest U.S. war plans.
Thousands planned a march around the White House in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.