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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush, Blair Split on Role of UN

WASHINGTON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood with U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday in warning Saddam Hussein that time is running out for Iraq to avoid war, but Bush and Blair appeared divided over how hard to press the UN Security Council for a new resolution supporting military action.

A day after Bush said he would make a decision about invading Iraq in "weeks, not months," senior officials in Turkey signaled that they were likely to allow the United States to use their country as a base from which to attack Iraq from the north, opening a potentially crucial second front in the event of war.

Dismissing calls from other nations to use UN weapons inspections, penalties and other international pressure to contain Iraq's aggression without resorting to war, Bush bluntly rejected the idea that Hussein could be rendered harmless to the world while remaining in power.

After meeting with Blair at the White House, the president reiterated his position on a second Security Council resolution. He said that while a resolution would be desirable, the lack of one would not prevent the United States from leading a military coalition against Iraq.

In doing so, he brought into clear focus a potentially important difference with Britain, his staunchest ally in taking a hard line against Hussein, and the intensifying strains between the United States and many if not most of the other members of the 15-nation Security Council.

U.S. officials have said the resolution adopted unanimously by the Security Council in November, No. 1441, not only calls for Iraq to comply immediately with demands that it disarm but also sanctions the use of force against Hussein's government by stating that Iraq "will face serious consequences" if it does not give up its weapons of mass destruction.

"Should the United Nations pass a second resolution, it would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we're intent on disarming Saddam Hussein," Bush said at a joint news conference with the prime minister. "But 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution, and Saddam Hussein must understand that if he does not disarm, for the sake of peace, we along with others will go disarm Saddam Hussein."

Blair, however, signaled that Britain would still prefer to seek the explicit support of the Security Council for any military action. He said bringing the issue before the United Nations again amounted to "a test for the international community" in enforcing the demands in the original resolution.

Given that Iraq has not disarmed, Blair said, "what is important is that the international community comes together again and makes it absolutely clear that this is unacceptable."

U.S. officials said after the meeting that Bush was not opposed to a second resolution, but was unwilling to get into a long negotiation over one. Indeed, Bush appeared impatient with the idea that he needed to seek more international support.

"I want to remind you that I was the guy that went to the United Nations in the first place," he said, referring to his decision last fall to seek the original Security Council resolution. Any debate about another resolution, he said, "just needs to be resolved quickly."

British diplomats said they were taken aback by the evident tension between Bush and Blair at the news conference. They said the encounter had displayed perhaps a little too visibly the differences between Bush and his closest ally over the pace of the march toward war and the urgency of gaining maximum international support.

British officials have drawn up several alternative drafts of a second resolution, including a proposal for a new ultimatum and deadline, giving the weapons inspectors as much as 30 more days to do their work in Iraq.

Blair, facing mounting popular opposition at home to a war with Iraq and increasing dismay among the European allies at his closeness with Washington, has stressed that he would like more time to work on the Security Council for a second resolution authorizing war.

But Blair did not carry a specific proposal to the meeting with Bush, the diplomats said, and Britain has not taken any steps to offer a second resolution at the United Nations. The United States and Britain agree that resolution 1441, which set up the weapons inspections, provides all the necessary legal authority for the United States to lead its own coalition into war.