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President Bush `optimistic' Iraqi resolution vote will come Friday

UNITED NATIONS—President Bush expects to win passage Friday of a tough U.N. Security Council resolution on disarming Iraq, officials said.

The council will meet at 10 a.m. and a unanimous or near-unanimous vote of its 15 members is expected, based on polling Thursday night.

Earlier Thursday, Bush said he had spoken with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he was "optimistic we'll get the resolution vote tomorrow."

A French diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the breakthrough was worked out through negotiations at the United Nations and between Bush and Chirac.

In Paris, Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said Chirac hoped a "consensus could be reached" when the council voted Friday.

Knight Ridder reported Tuesday that France had reached agreement with the United States on the resolution.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Thursday that France and Russia agreed to the new U.N. resolution Tuesday and that the changes made since then have been "few and minor and don't change the bottom line, which is that Saddam Hussein must choose between disarming and being disarmed."

The official said that Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, and Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, would determine how and how fast the inspections proceeded, but that the resolution meant no military action against Iraq was likely for several months unless Saddam provoked it.

France, Russia, China and other members of the Security Council had been critical of previous drafts that the United States and co-sponsor Britain offered, saying they did not want any "hidden triggers" for a war against Iraq.

Bush said Thursday that he did not want war with Iraq, but that the new resolution would not handcuff the United States from attacking if necessary to destroy Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

"I hope we don't have war. I hope this can be done peacefully," Bush said. But, he added, "We will do what it takes militarily to succeed. This time we mean it."

He said he had not decided how long he was prepared to wait to see if inspections worked. He brushed aside warnings from intelligence officials that an attack on Iraq could incite terrorists and convince Saddam to use chemical and biological weapons against the invading forces or Israel.

"That's like saying we should not go after al-Qaida because we might irritate somebody, and that would create a danger to Americans," Bush said. "There's a risk in all action we take. But the risk of inaction is not a choice, as far as I'm concerned."

Diplomats said the final stumbling block was a passage in the draft that some interpreted as allowing the United States or others to circumvent weapons inspectors and report violations directly to the council.

The resolution needs at least nine votes along with no vetoes from the five permanent members—the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain—to pass.


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Ron Hutcheson and Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed to this report.)


(c) 2002, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): President Bush