U.S, U.K. Put Iraq Resolution Vote on Hold

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Diplomats from around the globe will take turns speaking their minds Tuesday as the U.N. Security Council continues to ponder a resolution authorizing war with Iraq.

Open council debate was planned after the United States and Britain were forced to delay a vote on their draft resolution when it failed to get enough support, despite a flurry of personal appeals from President Bush on Monday.

Britain, the U.S. and Spain had hoped to present the resolution, which includes a March 17 deadline for Baghdad to disarm, to the council on Tuesday. But by late Monday, it became evident that they had not won the nine votes needed for the proposal to pass — barring a veto by one of the five permanent members.

"I don't rule out listening to other governments as we go through this process and seeing what we come up with," State Department Richard Boucher said Monday.

Bush is expected to work the phones again on Tuesday in an effort to save the resolution.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said consultations were ongoing and "the vote will take place this week." He also described a plan to extend the March 17 deadline as a "a non-starter."

"The vote will be the day we get nine or ten votes, and I think we're getting close," said Spanish Ambassador to the United Nations Inocencio Arias.

Nine or 10 votes for the resolution might turn out to be a hollow victory.  On Monday, French President Jacques Chirac declared his country would veto any resolution authorizing war, echoing a statement by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov earlier in the day that Moscow would also vote against the proposal as it was currently worded.

Both the United States and Britain said they were willing to negotiate the deadline and other changes to the resolution.

During a closed-door council session late Monday, British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock suggested a two-phase approach to the resolution, in which Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would have 10 days to make a "strategic decision" to disarm, council diplomats said.

The inspectors would then have a brief window to verify whether Iraq was carrying out a set of tests — or "benchmarks" — before the decision to wage war was made.

Some of the six undecided member nations were talking about delaying the ultimatum by as much as a month, until April 17 — though that stood no chance with the United States as hundreds of thousands of American soldiers awaited orders in the Persian Gulf.

On the surface, at least, Monday was not a good day for the coalition's efforts.

Pakistan's prime minister said his country, a key swing vote on the council, wouldn't support war with Iraq. Ruling party spokesman Azeem Chaudhry said Tuesday that this meant Pakistan would abstain from voting.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in the war on terrorism, but its citizens are overwhelmingly opposed to a U.S. attack on Iraq and Islamic hardliners have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to anti-war protests.

Chile also suggested it was not ready to embrace the resolution without changes.

Britain, Spain and the U.S. have been assured the support of Bulgaria, and Cameroon and Mexico were said to be leaning heavily toward voting for the proposal.

But with Germany, Syria and now Pakistan preparing abstentions or "no" votes, the draft's proponents were trying to garner the support of Chile, Angola and Guinea.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair battled a growing revolt within his own Labor party.

The government of Australia also took some heat for its pro-war stance. A top intelligence adviser resigned Tuesday to protest Prime Minister John Howard's policy.

Noting the resistance both at home and at the United Nations, Blair said he was open to compromise.

"We are talking to all the other countries about how we ensure that we can make a proper judgment about whether Saddam is cooperating or not," he said.

One sign of Iraqi good faith, Blair said, would be whether Baghdad was allowing inspectors to interview scientists outside the country.

Diplomats said the benchmarks could be presented in the form of a presidential statement — a diplomatic text that everyone in the council could sign, stating whether they supported the resolution or not.

On Monday, chief U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix told the council that an Iraqi drone recently discovered didn't constitute a "smoking gun."

Blix said Iraq should have included the drone in its December weapons declaration, but he was not sure if the unmanned vehicle had an illegal range of more than 150 kilometers (93 miles).

If the resolution is defeated, Bush and Blair have said they would be prepared to go to war with a coalition of willing nations. But U.N. support would give the war international legitimacy and guarantee that members of the organization shared the costs of rebuilding Iraq.

The White House argued Monday that lack of support would hurt U.N. credibility.

If the United Nations fails to act, Fleischer said, "that means the United Nations will not be the international body that disarms Saddam Hussein. Another international body will disarm Saddam Hussein. So this will remain an international action — it's just [that] the United Nations will have chosen to put itself on the sidelines."

France and Russia seemed undeterred.

"No matter what the circumstances, France will vote 'no,'" Chirac said in a television interview Monday. "There is no cause for war to achieve the objective that we fixed — the disarmament of Iraq."

His foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, met top Angolan officials Monday as he barnstormed among the undecided African council members.

Bush made an urgent round of phone calls to eight world leaders trying to salvage the resolution on Monday. Chinese President Jiang Zemin told Bush that weapons inspections should continue and the standoff should be settled peacefully, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Jiang was also called by Blair.

Bush also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, South African President Thabo Mbeki, Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Turkish governing party leader and prime-minister-in-waiting Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.