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U.S. To Accept Short Extension of Iraq Deadline - 2003-03-12


U.S. officials say President Bush wants a vote at the UN Security Council on a new Iraq resolution despite strong opposition from several members.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Tuesday Washington will call a vote by the end of the week on a draft resolution that would lay the groundwork for military action against Iraq, if Baghdad does not disarm voluntarily.

The spokesman said the United States and Britain -- co-sponsors of the draft resolution -- may be willing to extend by a few days a March 17th deadline for Iraq to disarm as part of a compromise. But he flatly rejected suggestions that the deadline be pushed back by at least a month.

Britain's UN ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, said a revised draft could set "benchmarks" for Iraq to demonstrate its strategic decision to disarm and a slightly altered deadline. But he said the time-line would not go beyond the end of March.

Meanwhile, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said today (Wednesday) the United States knows it can count on significant British military support in the event of war.

Mr. Hoon was reacting to comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday that seemed to suggest the United States might have to take the military action alone if Britain can not participate because of domestic considerations.

Mr. Rumsfeld later issued a statement saying he had "every reason to believe there would be a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom."

Mr. Rumsfeld said he was "simply pointing out that obtaining a second United Nations Security Council Resolution is important to the United Kingdom and that we are working to achieve it."

The United States and Britain currently have more than 250,000 troops in the Persian Gulf region. About 30-thousand of those troops are British.

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