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U.K.: 6 steps to avert war

Bush administration officials said on Wednesday that they still could win nine of 15 votes in the U.N. Security Council for a resolution effectively authorizing an attack on Saddam Hussein, but they cautioned that the situation was extraordinarily chaotic and changing by the hour.

Still, White House officials insisted that they would force a vote on the resolution by Friday, whether or not they had the votes.

Trying to gain the crucial support of six officially undecided Security Council nations, the Bush administration pushed a British compromise that would require Hussein to meet a series of six tests, including admitting on television that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he will give them up.

The compromise also would give U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq a short extension, perhaps to March 21 or March 24.

An Associated Press count indicated that a resolution had seven of the nine votes required for passage (not taking into account any vetoes). Two nations are believed to be uncommitted.

While campaigning for a quick vote in the Security Council, senior administration officials also acknowledged that the situation was highly fluid, and that the Friday deadline could very well be pushed back.

President Bush led the administration's efforts, spending his day making phone calls from the Oval Office in a last-minute lobbying blitz to try to win over the undecided Security Council nations. He spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and the president of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, among others. On Tuesday night from his residence he spoke to President Vicente Fox of Mexico and President Ricardo Lagos of Chile.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, also made calls throughout the day to their foreign counterparts. But the only person who had a clear idea of where the votes stood, an administration official said, was Bush himself, who for the past three days has cleared his calendar for what has become an all-out global legislative fight.

By Wednesday evening, the tensions were spilling over into the Bush administration itself, as the hawkish senior administration officials who had opposed going to the United Nations in the first place erupted in frustration that the process was becoming protracted. The New York Times reported that one senior administration official blamed the delays on Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, who had insisted on the new resolution to gain critical political support at home.

The bitterly divided council discussed the British proposal for 3{ hours Wednesday evening without reaching any consensus, and agreed to meet again this afternoon.

Diplomats said that the British proposals were circulated on a trial basis to see if they could move the undecided nations to support the resolution, or perhaps to persuade Russia, one of five veto-bearing members of the council, to abstain. If the proposals appeared to be gaining no traction, the diplomats said, they likely would be abandoned.

France was still vowing to veto the resolution, but administration officials continued to chase after a majority of the Security Council votes. Even with a veto, they said, they would still try to portray a majority vote in the Security Council as a U.N. endorsement of a war.

Late Wednesday, it was unclear just how many votes Bush had lined up. A senior administration official at first said that Guinea, one of the six undecided nations, was on board, but then said that the president of Guinea had changed his mind, the New York Times reported. The official said that the administration may not know if it has the votes until the last minute, on Friday.

The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, sounded a careful note of optimism. "I wouldn't deny that we're making progress, but I wouldn't want to mislead you that we've got it in the bag," he said.

Boucher's caution was echoed by the Pakistani envoy to the United Nations, Munir Akram, who said that his country had not yet made a decision. "We will take a decision at the final moments when we know what we have to vote upon," he said. "The situation is still in play."

Based on public statements and private interviews with senior diplomats, the Associated Press has determined that the resolution currently has the support of seven countries: Britain, the United States, Spain, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Pakistan and Mexico. Angola and Guinea were still uncommitted Wednesday. Chile, Germany and China are expected to abstain. Russia could also abstain or vote against the draft along with Syria and France.

Throughout the day, the administration used varying tactics in an attempt to gain support.

At the United Nations, the Spanish envoy, Inocencio Arias, said in an interview that recent comments by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had been "enormously counterproductive" in the campaign to win support for the resolution. Rumsfeld had said on Tuesday that the United States could proceed in a war without Britain. Rumsfeld quickly backed off the suggestion that England would not fight alongside the United States, and on Wednesday morning the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said he expected that England would contribute "militarily" to any war against Hussein.

In Kuwait, a U.N. force monitoring the Iraq border said that it was temporarily removing some observers from remote parts of a demilitarized zone that U.S. troops would have to cross in an invasion of Iraq.

American military officials said that the Navy "very shortly" plans to divert about a dozen battle ships from the eastern Mediterranean ea to new positions in the Red Sea. The Navy had planned to use the ships to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean across southern Turkey to northern Iraq, but the Turks have not granted the United States permission to use their airspace.

The ships will now be sent on a journey south through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea, where they could be used to fire the missiles into Iraq across Saudi Arabia. Military officials said the move could foreshadow a Pentagon decision to shift two aircraft carriers now in the eastern Mediterranean, the Harry S. Truman and the Theodore Roosevelt, into the Red Sea.

THE SIX STEPS

Britain outlined a list of six conditions for Iraq's disarmament:

A TV appearance by Saddam Hussein renouncing weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq's permission for 30 key weapons scientists to travel to Cyprus to be interviewed by U.N. weapons inspectors.

The destruction of all remaining anthrax and weapons to disperse it, "or credible evidence provided to account for their whereabouts."

Hand over and account for all mobile chemical and biological production facilities.

Completion of the destruction of all Al-Samoud 2 missiles and their components.

An accounting for unmanned aerial vehicles.

The votes

Here's how the countries on the U.N. Security Council appear to be lining up on the resolution, according to the Associated Press, but efforts to swing votes were still intense Wednesday night. Nine votes are needed for passage, but five countries () have veto power.

FAVOR

United States

Britain

Spain

Bulgaria

Pakistan

Cameroon

Mexico

OPPOSE

France

Russia

China

Syria

Germany

Chile

UNDECIDED

Guinea

Angola

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