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U.S., British, Spanish Leaders Plan Iraq Meeting

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday, ”In an effort to pursue every last bit of diplomacy the president will depart Sunday morning for the Azores to meet Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Aznar to discuss prospects for resolving the situation peacefully with diplomacy in final pursuit of a United Nations resolution.”

The United States, Britain and Spain are the sponsors of a resolution that would authorize force if Iraq fails to meet disarmament terms within a tight deadline.

France, Russia, and Germany oppose the resolution. France and Russia have said they will use their veto power as permanent members of the Security Council to defeat it. The United States may push for vote anyway, believing that if it can win the backing of a majority of the council it will have garnered the international support it seeks on the issue.

“The options remain go for a vote and see what members say, or not go for a vote. But all the options that you can imagine are before us and we will be examining that today, tomorrow and over the weekend,” Secretary of State Colin Powell told a committee of lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday.

France rejected outright a proposed British compromise that called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to take certain steps, including confessing ownership of banned weapons, to avoid war. French President Jacques Chirac reportedly told Blair on Thursday that giving Saddam Hussein an ultimatum was not acceptable.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech to his country’s parliament Friday that he still believes Iraq can be disarmed peacefully.

“We must have the courage to fight for peace as long as there is a scrap of hope that a war can be avoided,” Schroeder said.

American, British and Spanish officials have been lobbying for votes among the undecided members of the council.

The situation at the U.N. leaves Blair and Aznar in precarious political circumstances in their respective countries, where a war with Iraq is widely unpopular.

After the announcement of the Azores summit, President Bush made a statement in the White House Rose Garden Friday morning calling for renewed efforts to bring peace between Israel and Palestinians and pledging a U.S. role in the process. The United States has been criticized for not doing more to promote peace in Israel.

The Azores, politically part of Portugal, are located in the Atlantic Ocean about 900 miles from the Portugese coast and about 2500 miles from the East Coast of the United States. The islands are home to a U.S. Air Force base.

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