U.S., U.K. Give Hussein Until March 17 to Disarm

The United States and Great Britain are giving Saddam Hussein until March 17 to comply with U.N. inspections and disarmament demands -- or face war.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Friday distributed the text of a deadline addendum to a British-American-Spanish resolution authorizing war with Iraq.

The United States and Britain will ask the council to vote early next week on the resolution.

The resolution was put forward with a small window because undecided nations wanted an assurance that allied forces wouldn't attack immediately after it was passed.

Some diplomats wanted to give Saddam one last chance to disarm so they can say, if they vote for the resolution, that every effort has been made to avoid war. They all need to shore up public opinion at home.

"There was a hesitancy by countries to vote for anything that automatically goes to war," one U.S. official told Fox News.

The one-and-a-half page amendment reaffirms the need for full implementation of Resolution 1441 -- which was passed in November and calls for the complete and immediate disarmament of Iraq. It also calls on Baghdad to immediately make a decision in the best interests of its people and the region.

The document states that war will be necessary if Iraq fails to take the "final opportunity afforded by Resolution 1441" on or before March 17, "and the council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation with its disarmament obligations."

The proposal has already received harsh criticism from France, which has been the leading opponent of war and has advocated more stringent inspections.

France rejected the deadline proposal and threatened to use its veto to defeat it.

"This is the logic of war -- we don't accept this logic," French Foreign Minister France de Villepin told reporters.

"We cannot accept an ultimatum as long as inspectors are reporting cooperation," he told the council earlier. He said a deadline would be "a pretext for war." "France will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes the automatic use of force."

The amendment will allow time for "pressure to build up" on Iraqi officials "to make a strategic decision" to disarm, Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday.

Greenstock said that if Iraq were making genuine efforts to disarm, as South Africa did in the early 1990s, "it would be blindingly obvious."

"The Security Council cannot afford to look the facts in the face and turn away from its responsibilities," Greenstock added. "We're not going to go on for further years of inactivity by the council to compel complete disarmament when the facts about non-cooperation are as clear as they are."

Key fence-sitting countries such as Angola, Pakistan and Chile said Friday that they had problems with the resolution. Asked whether Angola could accept the new text, Angola's ambassador, Ismael Gasper Martins, said, "Unfortunately not."

"I don't think it's the sort of compromise that we were looking for or that we can support, not yet," he said.

The United States needs to be open to negotiations, he said, if it wants to gain support before a vote next week.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the short ultimatum "will lead in a very short period to military action."

President Bush, Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice planned to lobby allies by telephone until the vote. Bush spoke by phone with the Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

Iraq's Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri said the inspectors haven't yet proven that Baghdad has weapons of mass destruction.

"The U.S. administration and Britain continue to attempt to trump up facts and evidence pointing to Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. However, they have come short of convincing the international community," he said.

In his televised news conference Thursday night, Bush said, "As far as ultimatums ... we'll just wait and see," adding that "we're days away from resolving the issue" in the council.

But "no matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. It's time for people to show their cards, [to] let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

The United States will go it alone with its allies if necessary.

If we need to act, "we will act, and we do not need the United Nations' permission to do so," Bush said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said Friday that Russia may support a compromise resolution on Iraq if it helps find a political solution but will oppose any attempt to legitimize war.

Washington hasn't yet gained the nine votes necessary for the resolution's passage. Six nations out of the 15 Security Council members are publicly undecided.

The U.S. and Britain also quietly disagree over whether Saddam will be allowed to remain in power if Iraq complies. Britain sees no need for a regime change if Baghdad disarms, but the United States wants the dictator permanently removed from power.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, representing the European Union, is to give the council a plan including benchmarks that Iraq must implement "in a specific time frame," said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis. A Canadian compromise would give Saddam until the end of the month.

The political wrangling over the resolutions continued even after chief weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei told the Security Council Friday that although Iraq has carried out a "substantial measure" of U.N. demands -- albeit slowly -- there is still more work to be done.

Blix said Iraq's destruction of its Al Samoud 2 missiles constitutes a "substantial measure of disarmament."

"We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks -- lethal weapons are being destroyed," he said.

Blix said weapons inspectors will interview scientists outside Iraq for the first time, since "conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq."

While it's "obvious" that Iraq is making attempts to resolve disarmament issues, Blix stressed, "these cannot be said to constitute immediate cooperation."

ElBaradei said nuclear inspectors will continue, but he said: "We have to date found no evidence ... of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq."

The reports were met with staunch repute from the United States, Britain and Spain.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called the reports -- plus an additional 167-page report detailing the 12-year history of Iraq's noncompliance -- a "catalog of noncooperation" by Saddam.

"Iraq's small steps certainly are not initiatives," Powell said. "They have been pulled out or have been pressed out by the possibility of force by the political will of the Security Council … only grudgingly, rarely unconditionally and primarily under the threat of force....

"The clock continues to tick and the consequences of Saddam Hussein's continued refusal to disarm will be very real," Powell warned.

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw noted that not one council member -- not even France -- could say that Iraq is living up to its responsibilities under Resolution 1441.

He said the reports represent "only the tip of a very huge iceberg of huge unfinished business required by Iraq."

"The council must send Iraq the clear message that we will resolve this crisis on the United Nations' terms … which we adopted with Resolution 1441," Straw said, as the council chamber applauded.

Fox News' Teri Schultz and Jim Angle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.