Clock 'Still Ticking' on Iraq, Powell Says

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Saddam Hussein is trying not only to deceive, but also to divide the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday.

The secretary of state accused the Iraqi dictator of taking his country deeper into material breach of U.N. obligations and said Saddam had thrown away his "one last chance" to avoid the "serious consequences" the U.N. threatened last November.

"The clock is still ticking," Powell told the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a foreign policy group.

"Process is not performance; concessions are not compliance," said Powell, who will go to New York Thursday to try to persuade Security Council fence-sitters to vote for a U.S.-British resolution authorizing force against Iraq.

He spoke just hours after the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Russia — the latter two veto-holders — announced that they would "not allow" the resolution to pass.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will address the Security Council Friday and take questions from members about his latest report on Iraq's efforts to disarm.

Powell, who will be making his fourth U.N. visit in two months, is expected to try to convince undecided nations to vote for the resolution submitted two weeks ago by Britain, Spain and the U.S.

So far, only Bulgaria has supported the resolution, and China, France, Germany, Russia and Syria are set against it. Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan, despite extreme diplomatic pressure, have not committed to either side.

Nine votes will be needed to pass the resolution, and China, France and Russia all can veto it.

Powell said Wednesday there has been no evidence that Saddam has made any serious movement to disarm or cooperate with U.N. inspectors.

"Iraq's too-little too-late gestures are meant not just to deceive and delay action by the international community, he has as one of his major goals to divide the international community, to split us into arguing factions. That effort must fail," Powell said.

He said the only real issue left is whether Saddam Hussein has "made a strategic decision, a political decision, to give up these horrible weapons of mass destruction."

But on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., criticized the Bush administration's heavy-handed diplomacy, saying "this crowd speaks harshly" and deters potential partners.

At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "Don't leap to conclusions about the final vote. You will continue to hear various statements by various people around the world."

"What you are observing is a fluid situation as different nations make different statements that all lead up to the one day which is the most important day, which is the day of the vote," Fleischer said.

As President Bush and senior American diplomats labored to round up votes, Powell said Tuesday that "nobody really knows who has the votes until the votes are taken."

In a television interview, he said he was confident that the resolution could garner nine positive votes and said that abstentions instead of vetoes from the opposed permanent members "is not an insurmountable task."

Bush also met with congressional leaders over breakfast Wednesday. They left the White House without talking to reporters.

The commander who would lead the war, Gen. Tommy Franks, brought battle plans to the White House for a meeting with Bush and his national security team Wednesday morning.

Bush talked by telephone to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, while Powell directed his telephone diplomacy toward Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez of Mexico and also talked to two supporters, Foreign Minister Ana Palacio of Spain and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain.

"We have emphasized the importance for members of the Security Council to stand up and be counted," Powell's spokesman, Richard Boucher, said.

Meanwhile, the Army's oldest armored division, "Old Ironsides," got orders to head for the Persian Gulf as the total of U.S. land, sea and air forces arrayed against Iraq or preparing to deploy neared 300,000.

American war planners still hope the Turkish parliament will reverse itself and permit the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops to pave the way for an invasion of Iraq from the north.

The payoff for Turkey would be a say in northern Iraq, a stronghold of the Kurds, and a $15 billion aid package from the United States.

Still, Powell said that if the Turkish parliament remains opposed, "we have alternative plans that will allow us to conduct any military operations that the president might order.

"We'll still be able to accomplish our mission," he said.

The White House and Powell left open the possibility that the administration would not seek a Security Council vote on a new resolution if the measure appeared to be doomed.

"The vote is desirable. It is not necessary," Fleischer said.

Powell said that after weapons inspectors Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei report on Friday, he will consult with other nations over the weekend.

"And then early next week we'll make a judgment on what we have heard and whether it's time to put the resolution up to a vote."

One option under serious consideration has Bush giving Saddam a final ultimatum, perhaps with a short-term deadline, in an address next week, two senior White House officials said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stressed that a variety of options were under consideration and that they depended on the outcome of the debate in the council.

Among them is Bush's oft-stated option of using force to disarm Iraq with a "coalition of the willing" alongside the United States if the council does not adopt the U.S.-British-Spanish resolution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.