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[casi] Bush Will Give Diplomacy "Weeks, not Months"

Bush: Only "Weeks" Left for Diplomacy
By Jennifer Loven, .c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (Jan. 30) --President Bush, moving toward a decision on war with
Iraq, said Thursday he will give diplomacy ''weeks, not months'' and said the
United States would welcome Saddam Hussein going into exile.

''For the sake of peace, this issue must be resolved,'' the president said
amid intensified administration efforts to increase pressure on reluctant
U.S. allies to disarm Saddam.

Bush spoke after meeting with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a firm
supporter of the United States' hardline position toward Iraq.

Meanwhile, another ally - Canada - objected to any unilateral action by the
United States against Iraq.

''If one state acts by itself it risks consequences,'' said Bill Graham, the
foreign minister of Canada. Graham met with Secretary of State Colin Powell
and said afterward that the United Nations had a responsibility to force Iraq
to disarm.

The British and Italians are among Bush's staunchest supporters while a
number of other U.S. allies, including France and Germany, want to give U.N.
weapons inspectors more time in Iraq.

In the Oval Office session with Berlusconi, Bush put allies on notice that he
will not wait long to act against Saddam, even if the United Nations refuses
to back his actions.

''This is a matter of weeks not months,'' Bush said.

Bush was meeting later with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, who is trying to
rally nations behind a plan to offer Saddam exile. Bush said he was open to
the idea.

''Should he choose to leave the country, along with other henchmen who have
tortured ... Iraqi people, we will welcome that, of course,'' Bush said. He
said, however, that the U.S. would continue to insist that Iraq disarm,
regardless of who governs the nation.

Berlusconi said he came to Washington to help Bush build support against
Saddam. Seated with Bush in front of a roaring Oval Office fire place,
Berlusconi said, ''I'm here to convince my friend President Bush that this is
in the interest of everybody.''

Senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
that while the timeline could change in the fluid Iraq standoff, Bush intends
to continue the consultation period until Feb. 14, when U.N. weapons
inspectors give the Security Council an update on the situation in Iraq.

Administration officials have said repeatedly that time is running out for
Saddam. ''The president is using this window now to engage in very busy and
active diplomacy,'' said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The Saudis have been seeking a way to avoid war and have not said publicly
they will allow the United States to use military facilities in Saudi Arabia.
However, U.S. officials have been saying for weeks they are satisfied with
the level of cooperation being offered privately and the U.S. commander who
would run a war against Iraq just returned to Washington from a round of
meetings with military leaders in the region, including those in Saudi Arabia.

In a letter published Thursday in newspapers including The Wall Street
Journal and the Times of London, the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy,
Portugal, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark paid homage to the
''bravery and generosity of America'' in ensuring peace in Europe.

And in a veiled attack on France and Germany, the leaders call for
''unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all
countries for whom freedom is precious.''

In addition, Albania officials released a letter from Prime Minister Fatos
Nano to Bush pledging the country's ''total and unconditional'' support in
the war on terrorism.

The administration, meanwhile, combed intelligence data for details Powell
could release to support its accusations that Iraq has a secret weapons
programs and links to terrorist groups when he appears next week before the
public U.N. session. The administration is working to find a way to release
such information without compromising U.S. intelligence sources.

Thursday evening, Bush's schedule called for a mostly social gathering with
the commanders of all the major military commands and their spouses. Talk
would cover the war on terror, Afghanistan, military transformation and Iraq,
but the setting was not designed as a decision-making or battle
plan-reviewing session.

Also Thursday, Bush directed up to $15 million to be available to deal with
the refugee crisis that any military action may produce. ''Such an emergency
may arise if it becomes necessary for the United States and other nations to
use military force to disarm the Iraqi regime of its weapons of mass
destruction,'' Bush said in a memo to Powell.

With allies, among the issues Bush will discuss is whether imposing a final
deadline on Iraq would help spur the international community to increase
pressure on Saddam. The administration also is considering a new U.N.
resolution. One senior official said it could declare Iraq in violation of
its obligations to disarm and authorize the use of force after a certain

Or, the official said, a deadline could be set without a resolution being
proposed by the United States in the Security Council.

 AP-NY-01-30-03 1254EST

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