Bush Team Presses For An Ultimatum

GENERIC george bush time iraq hourglass CBS/AP

Secretary of State Colin Powell held out hope Sunday that the U.N. Security Council, allies across the globe and the American public would come to support an American-led war with Iraq, as the United States pressed for an ultimatum giving Saddam Hussein until March 17 to prove he has disarmed.

Powell said he was within "striking distance" of the necessary nine votes to win a majority on the 15-member council. But he conceded in a televised interview that the French appeared set to "do everything they can to stop it" by using their veto. Such a veto, he warned, would "have a serious effect on bilateral relations, at least in the short term."

He said it remained unclear where two other veto-bearing nations, Russia and China, stood on a vote that could take place as early as Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Powell said he was leading intensive efforts over the weekend to win over several other governments, hoping to muster the nine necessary votes.

The foreign minister of Guinea, a Security Council member, will visit administration officials this week, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said in a broadcast interview. Asked whether the administration was trying to entice potential backers with promises of financial aid, as it sought to do with Turkey, Rice said, "We're talking to people about their interests."

Rice refused to say which nations the United States is counting on for supportive votes.

Powell and Rice took to the airwaves in a series of news interviews Sunday amid a tide of opposition to war from foreign leaders and their constituents, and from many Americans. Police arrested five anti-war protesters outside the ABC studios in Washington where Rice was interviewed, and several demonstrators followed her to the CBS offices where she was interviewed by "Face the Nation."

Late Sunday afternoon, 23 anti-war protesters were arrested outside the Capitol. Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel said the arrests came after police reached agreement with a group who wanted to be arrested. She said police established a line and protesters were arrested for crossing it. Those arrested face a $50 fine, she said.

Thousands of protesters converged on the White House to voice opposition to war Saturday, and additional demonstrations were planned for Sunday.

Powell and Rice said the administration is following the hard but necessary course to protect Americans, and predicted public opinion would swing the administration's way. "Sometimes public opinion trails behind very difficult decisions," Rice told CBS.

"As a matter of war and peace, most people would prefer to be on the side of peace — I would prefer to be on the side of peace," Powell said in another broadcast interview.

War "is always unpopular," Powell said. "I've seen it in a number of crises, whether it was going into Panama or the Gulf War, where public opinion is against you until the moment of truth comes when you go in and you find out what they have really been doing, you liberate a people and you create a better life for that country, for the people of that country — then you see that public opinion will change."

But Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean warned that a U.S.-led war would give license to other nations who felt they needed to pre-emptively attack.

"It might be considered as a precedent for others to try to do the same thing," Chretien said in a televised interview. "Where do you stop? You know, if you can do that there, why not elsewhere?"

"What is to prevent China, some years down the road, from saying, 'Look what the United States did in Iraq — we're justified in going in and taking over Taiwan?"' Dean said in a broadcast interview.

Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said President Bush had not made the case that military action against Iraq was justified. "Going into Iraq has very little to do with protecting the United States of America," he said.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California drew a standing ovation from the Communications Workers of America Sunday as she stated her opposition to an Iraq war at this time. Mr. Bush has alienated allies in the war on terror, she said.

"Our country has never been greater," Pelosi said. "And yet we have never been more dependent on our friends and allies to keep our country secure."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said war could threaten the United States by fanning anti-American sentiment

"Anti-Americanism is a threat to us," Levin said in a broadcast interview. "We've got to lead the world. We shouldn't be treating the U.N. as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to rally the world against terrorist threats and not take unilateral actions which could fuel the terrorist response against the United States."

Former President Jimmy Carter, last year's a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, added his voice to that warning. "It is quite possible that the aftermath of a military invasion will destabilize the region and prompt terrorists to further jeopardize our security at home," Carter wrote in a New York Times opinion article Sunday.

"Increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory," Carter wrote. "American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations."

Mr. Bush spent a rare weekend in Washington to attend Saturday evening's annual Gridiron dinner. On a sunny, springlike Sunday, he jogged at Fort McNair.
  • Joel Roberts

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