US, Britain, Spain withdraw draft resolution on Iraq


Britain, Spain and the United States have withdrawn a draft resolution seeking UN Security Council authority for military action to disarm Iraq.

This will clear the way for them to launch a war without Security Council authority.

The British ambassador to the United Nations, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, told reporters that the sponsors had concluded that "council consensus will not be possible."

"The co-sponsors will not pursue a vote on the draft resolution," he said. "The co-sponsors reserve their right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq."

Mr Greenstock and his US counterpart, Mr John Negroponte, clearly threw the blame on France. Without mentioning it by name, they both referred to "the explicit threat" by one council member to veto the draft.

"We regret that in the face of an explicit threat to veto by apermanent member, the vote counting became a secondaryconsideration," Mr Negropontesaid.

The announcement was made just before the council went into consultations behind closed doors for what US President George W. Bush said was its "moment of truth" on Iraq. The 15 council members and their aides met in a basement room because their regular consultation room was under renovation.

President George W. Bush will make a televised address to the nation tonight (1.00 a.m Irish time)."To avoid a military conflict, Saddam Hussein has no other choice than to leave the country," Mr Bush will tell the American public, according to a White House spokesman.It is understood Mr Bush will tell Saddam that the diplomatic window is now closed, and tell him to leave the country within 48 hours or face a military attack.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Jacques Chirac this evening reiterated their conviction that UN diplomatic efforts were necessary to resolve the Iraqi crisis.

Iraqitelevision reported this afternoon that President Saddam Hussein said he hopes "a war will not take place." However, he also renewed hispledge to defeat the United States if it attacks.Iraq would take the war anywhere in the world "wherever there is sky, land or water," he said.

Mr Bush said after an emergency summit yesterday with the leaders of Britain, Spain and Portugal on the Azores Islands in the eastern Atlantic: "We concluded that tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world."

Mr Bush left no doubt that the United States and its allies would move to invade Iraq without UN backing if the Security Council failed to pass the resolution.

But after weeks of trying to get the minimum nine votes for the US-British-Spanish resolution, the Bush administration ended up with only one nation, Bulgaria, publicly declaring its support.

To be adopted, a resolution needs a minimum of nine positive and no veto from its five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The resolution before the council had a March 17th deadline for Saddam to scrap or account for any weapons of mass destruction that Baghdad denies it has. But Britain had offered to move up that date - perhaps as long as 10 days - if the measure had a chance of adoption.