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[casi] US and Britain give Saddam just 48 hours to leave Iraq

US and Britain give Saddam just 48 hours to leave Iraq
By Julian Coman in Washington and Colin Brown

(Filed: 09/02/2003)
Britain and America are drawing up plans to give Saddam Hussein as little as
48 hours to flee Baghdad or face war, if UN weapons inspectors report this
week that the Iraqi dictator is still refusing to disarm fully.
The proposals will form the framework of a long-awaited second resolution,
which could be put before the Security Council by next weekend.
The deadline would be just long enough for Arab neighbours to make a last
effort to persuade Saddam to leave the country, according to US officials,
or for a coup to take place. The shortest timeframe to emerge from private
diplomatic discussions has been two days.
The phrasing of the new, deliberately concise UN resolution would deny
Saddam a fresh chance to say that he will comply with Security Council
demands. Britain will put forward the resolution because Washington "does
not want to be seen to need it", according to a senior Security Council
Foreign Office officials confirmed that Saudi Arabia has offered to take
Saddam if he goes into exile. Last month Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence
secretary, said he would be "delighted" if Saddam fled Iraq.
"To avoid a war, I would personally recommend that some provision be made so
that the senior leadership and their families could be provided haven in
some other country," he said.
To be passed, the new resolution would require the support of nine of the 15
Security Council members, assuming there was no veto from France, China or
Russia. British and American officials last night made clear that they do
not expect a unanimous vote in its favour but are confident that a veto can
be avoided.
"The resolution being discussed would declare that Saddam is in material
breach of UN resolutions, which authorises the use of all necessary means to
disarm him," one senior Security Council diplomat said.
America and Britain are, however, determined to avoid a second resolution
which would enable Saddam further to delay disarmament. "The last thing they
want is a decision which just starts the process towards another decision,"
said the diplomat.
France, Germany, Russia and China favour giving inspectors more time,
raising the possibility of a showdown on Friday, when the Security Council
meets to hear the latest report from Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector.
Germany and France confirmed yesterday that they are working on plans for a
solution that involves sending UN peacekeeping troops to support inspectors
in Iraq.
Dr Blix is holding talks with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad this
weekend. While his inspectors have now been granted private access to a
number of Iraqi scientists, one of their prime targets - the English-trained
woman who used to run Saddam's lethal biological weapons programme - said
that she will refuse to talk to them.
In an exclusive interview to be broadcast on BBC1's Panorama at 10.30
tonight, Rihab Taha, who studied at the University of East Anglia and is
known as "Dr Germ", said that she does not trust the inspectors.
"It is a human right that if you don't want to speak to anyone, no one will
oblige you or force you." Speaking of her work on biological weapons, Dr
Taha added: "It is our right to have a capability to defend ourselves and to
have something as a deterrent."
Despite the Franco-German initiatives, Britain insists that Iraq has had
enough last chances. "It's a question of timing as to when you reach that
point of last resort," said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to
the UN.
"We've reached it. It's 600 weeks since we started the business of asking
Iraq to disarm. And now it's time to cut the knot and take action."
Getting a second UN resolution is crucial for Tony Blair. The Prime Minister
will urge his party to back him at Labour's spring conference in Glasgow
next Sunday, the day after mass anti-war rallies there and in London.
He is, however, facing, a serious rebellion. One official said: "We are
getting in a huge amount of motions opposing the war." One constituency
Labour Party has voted to stop campaigning for the local elections in May
unless the Prime Minister secures a second resolution.

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