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Aznar, Bush Discuss Possible Military Action Against Iraq - 2003-02-22


President Bush met Saturday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to discuss possible military action against Iraq.

Spain has already signed-on to U.S. plans for possible military action against Iraq, so Saturday's meeting at the president's Texas ranch was more a strategy session than a recruitment drive.

The two leaders held a conference call with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss the language of a new UN resolution against Iraq, which Mr.Bush says is a "final chance" for the Security Council to prove its relevance.

President Bush said, "During these final deliberations, there is but one question for the Council to address. Is Saddam Hussein complying with Resolution 14-41? That resolution did not ask for hints of progress or minor concessions. It demanded full and immediate disarmament."

Mr. Bush says Iraq has not complied with those demands, and that alone is the issue before the Security Council.

The head of the UN nuclear monitoring group, Mohamed ElBaradei, Saturday, said weapons inspectors are still not receiving full cooperation from Iraqi authorities -- particularly in efforts to interview Iraqi scientists.

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has told Iraq that it has until next Saturday to begin destroying stocks of two missiles that have a range exceeding the 150-kilometer limit set by UN resolutions that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

President Bush says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has no intention of disarming, or he would have done so already. Mr. Bush believes the United Nations will back the new resolution, which a senior administration official says will present the case against Iraq in what he calls "clear and irrefutable logic."

That despite threats of a possible French veto, because France, along with Russia and China, believes UN weapons inspectors should have more time to search for suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Spanish Prime Minister Aznar says time is running out for the UN to act against Iraq. Speaking through an interpreter, the Spanish leader said, if the Security Council does not back-up its demands after more than a decade of Iraqi defiance, UN resolutions will amount to what he called "senseless rhetoric."

Mr. Aznar said, "Well, what I want to say is that we cannot designate Saddam Hussein as the manager of international peace and security. We have been with this item on the agenda for 12 years."

Iraq says it has no illegal weapons, and believes President Bush is determined to attack the country, regardless of what UN inspectors find.

Along with Britain, Spain is the president's biggest European ally when it comes to dealing with Iraq. Mr. Aznar also urged what he called "quick action" to bring peace to the Middle East.

British Prime Minister Blair met Saturday with Pope John Paul II. A Vatican spokesman says the pope emphasized the need to resolve the Iraqi crisis through the United Nations, and avert a war that he said can still be avoided.

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