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Background: U.S. Delays a Vote in the U.N. Security Council

March 13, 2003 at 12:00 AM EST
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MARGARET WARNER: President Bush made two things clear at his press conference last week: He wanted the Security Council to vote on a new Iraq resolution before the end of this week, and the U.S. would insist on holding a vote even if the prospects looked bleak.

PRES. GEORGE BUSH: No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.

MARGARET WARNER: But today, Secretary of State Colin Powell said negotiations would continue into next week, and he suggested the U.S. might pull its draft resolution without a vote if it appeared headed for defeat. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked to explain the apparent change of heart.

REPORTER: The president was very clear last week, he wanted a vote in the Security Council. It was time for countries to show their cards. And now today, Secretary Powell says, among the options is to go for a vote or not to go for a vote. What’s going on here?

ARI FLEISCHER: Okay, let me… let me try to share or inform you about where things stand in the fluid situation with the diplomacy. The end is coming into sight, and there are numerous routes to reach that end through the diplomacy the president is pursuing. And the president has said that he seeks a vote, and we seek a vote. I cannot predict for you every shape and turn of the road on the way to that end, but this end is coming into sight. And that’s why you’re seeing some levels of flexibility and discussion of option as it comes into sight.

MARGARET WARNER: To persuade the undecided Council members, Britain this week proposed adding a number of specific benchmarks, or tests, that Saddam Hussein could meet to avert war. But today France, which had vowed to veto the original U.S.- British-Spanish resolution, rejected the latest British proposal, too.

DOMINEUQE DE VILLEPIN (Translated): We cannot accept the British proposals because they exist within logic of war, logic of automatic recourse to force. It would be necessary for the text not to be written as an ultimatum.

MARGARET WARNER: In London, British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, condemned the French reaction.

JACK STRAW: Without even proper consideration, the French government have decided they will reject these proposals, adding to the statement that, “whatever the circumstances, France will vote no.”

MARGARET WARNER: Straw said the British would continue their push nonetheless.

JACK STRAW: We’re not going to give up until we come to the final conclusion that it’s simply not possible to reach an agreement.

MARGARET WARNER: Later today, the British met with representatives of the six undecided countries at the U.N., and the Security Council held a closed meeting late this afternoon.