Bush Works to Salvage U.N. Ultimatum
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Facing veto threats from France and Russia, President Bush made an urgent round of phone calls to world leaders Monday, trying to salvage a U.N. Security Council ultimatum giving Saddam Hussein until March 17 to prove Iraq has disarmed.
Bush spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Chinese President Jiang Zemin and planned to talk to a series of other leaders, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
China is a permanent member the Security Council and has veto power. Japan backed the new resolution Saturday, urging the Security Council to pass it. While Japan is not on the council, it is a major source of foreign aid _ an important consideration for the poor nations on the body.
The spokesman said Bush was emphasizing humanitarian arguments for war with Iraq. The calls came on a day when Russia said more explicitly than ever that it would veto the new resolution.
``It’s worth remembering what happened to the people of Kosovo, it’s worth remembering what happened to the people of Rwanda,″ Fleischer said.
The world stood by in 1994 when hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were being slaughtered at home. Critics said the United Nations and the United States took no action. In the run-up to NATO’s bombing of Kosovo in 1999, a resolution authorizing force was withdrawn in the face of a threatened Russian veto.
``The United Nations has previously sat on the sidelines as people died and as injustice was done as a result of vetoes or veto threats from other nations,″ Fleischer said. ``If they were to veto, which is indeed a possibility, it would be from a moral point of view more than a disappointment _ it would let down millions of people around the world, in this case Iraq, who deserve to be free and have a better life.″
Secretary of State Colin Powell said he would not be surprised by a French veto. Such a step by France, he warned, would ``have a serious effect on bilateral relations, at least in the short term.″ Powell said he could not be sure where another veto-bearing nation, China, stood on a vote that could take place as early as Tuesday.
In television interviews Sunday, Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said they believed public opinion had been slow to follow the Bush administration. But they predicted the public and U.S. allies would come to support an American-led war with Iraq.
On ``Fox News Sunday,″ Powell said ``I think we’re in striking distance of (nine or 10 votes). We’ll be in intense negotiations over the next couple of days, a lot of diplomacy will be taking place.″
Further complicating matters, Russian Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov said Monday the Kremlin would vote against resolution. It was the first time that Moscow declared outright that it would vote against the document. A ``no″ vote would constitute veto.
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. during the Clinton administration, said Monday he thought it would be ``catastrophic if we go in and lose the vote.″
``I think the odds are less than 50/50 that we are going to get the votes this week,″ he said on NBC’s ``Today″ program. ``I would put it off for a week or two. ... Since we’re close, I think we should just give them extra days and I think the administration can put that together,″ Richardson said.
Criticism rose from several quarters, meanwhile.
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean contended 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 on ABC’s ``This Week.″ ``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 on NBC’s ``Meet the Press.″
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California drew a standing ovation from members of the Communications Workers of America when she stated her opposition to an Iraq war now. Bush has alienated allies in the war on terror, she said.
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said war could threaten the United States by fanning anti-American sentiment.
``Anti-Americanism is a threat to us,″ Levin said on CNN’s ``Late Edition.″
Former President Carter, last year’s 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,″ he said 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.″
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 on ``Face the Nation.″ On Saturday, thousands converged on the White House to voice opposition to war.
Late Sunday, 23 protesters were arrested outside the Capitol. Capitol Police spokeswoman Jessica Gissubel said that came after police reached agreement with a group who wanted to be arrested.