UNITED NATIONS—Britain proposed a tough set of specific Iraqi disarmament tests—including a televised confession by Saddam Hussein—as British and U.S. officials tried again Wednesday to win support at the United Nations.
But no progress was visible as evening fell, as none of the six swing votes on the U.N. Security Council had declared themselves for or against the new British terms. It wasn't even clear by early evening if the Bush administration endorsed them. The Security Council met in a closed-door session to discuss what to do next.
Among the six conditions that the British would require Saddam to meet to avoid war:
_He must appear on television and radio and admit in Arabic that he possesses weapons of mass destruction and vow to relinquish them.
_Thirty Iraqi scientists must be interviewed outside Iraq.
_Iraq must surrender all biological and chemical agents or prove they were destroyed.
"Each of these tests is demanding, but eminently deliverable," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
The timetable remained unclear and was still under discussion Wednesday night.
The proposal circulated by the British left a blank space for the date of compliance. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer welcomed but did not endorse the British conditions and refused to comment on timing.
He said the United States still intended to demand a Security Council vote Thursday or Friday.
To some extent, any date attached to the resolution could prove irrelevant because France has vowed to veto any measure that includes an ultimatum and implies the automatic use of force for Saddam's failure to meet it.
A veto would kill the resolution—and any deadline attached to it. That would leave President Bush free to set his own timetable.
Bush has said he is ready to go to war with or without new U.N. authorization, and would give U.N. weapons inspectors and other foreigners in Baghdad only a few days notice before a military attack. Yet U.S. officials also remain hopeful that Turkey will relent and let U.S. troops enter its territory to attack Iraq from the north, and getting those troops in place could require at least another week.
Meanwhile U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, the officer who would direct an invasion of Iraq, arrived Wednesday at the Qatar base that would serve as operational headquarters. Aides said he had no immediate plans to leave.
Military officials said 225,000 U.S. troops are already in the Persian Gulf region. The British now have about 25,000 troops in the region and are committed to send about 40,000 in all. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it had called up another 12,000 reserves, bringing the total of reserves now activated to 190,000.
U.S. and British diplomats sought to win at least nine votes on the15-member Security Council—the minimum required for passage, absent a veto.
That would allow them to claim a moral victory in the world body and it would help embattled British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces political upheaval at home if Britain joins America in an Iraqi war without U.N. backing,
"The president is going the last mile for diplomacy," Fleischer said. "We shall see if the other nations on the Security Council are willing to entertain that last mile."
He said the president consulted by phone Wednesday with Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. All are members of the U.N. Security Council.
Six countries—Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Angola, Cameroon and Guinea—are considered swing votes that could build a nine-vote majority for the resolution, currently backed only by the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria. Opposed are France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria.
Some U.S. officials expressed guarded optimism about amassing nine votes.
"I wouldn't deny that we're making progress, but I don't want to mislead you into thinking that we've got it in the bag," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
Said another senior State Department official, who requested anonymity: "We're still working on this. No one's declaring victory."
Diplomats from the swing countries insisted that they had not made up their minds. They said the key dividing issue was how much time Iraq would have to comply.
"We wanted benchmarks," said Chilean U.N. Ambassador Gabriel Valdes. "We have them here, but are they feasible?"
In London, Blair faced withering questions over hints dropped Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the United States was mapping contingency plans to attack Iraq by itself if Britain ultimately refuses to join an invasion.
Rumsfeld's words were viewed in London as embarrassing to Blair, insulting to Britain and dismissive of the military contribution that could be made by a nation that has been Bush's staunchest ally in demanding Saddam's disarmament.
But Blair gave no indication Wednesday that his country's forces would be sidelined.
The six tests for Saddam, which would be spelled out in a side document to a new resolution, were outlined by Straw, the British foreign secretary.
He said Saddam must:
_Make a public statement on television and radio in Arabic, admitting that he concealed weapons of mass destruction and will no longer produce or retain them.
"Unless he were willing to spell this out to his own people in Arabic, then we would have to think it was another game or trick," Straw said.
_Deliver at least 30 Iraqi scientists for interviews outside Iraq, accompanied, if they choose, by their families. U.N. officials reported Wednesday that they have conducted 10 private interviews with Iraqi scientists, all inside Iraq.
_Complete the destruction of all banned Al Samoud 2 missiles. U.N. weapons inspectors said Iraq so far has destroyed 58 of its roughly 100 missiles.
_Surrender 10,000 liters of anthrax he has failed to account for in the past or produce evidence it has been destroyed.
_Account for all unmanned drone planes and produce details of their testing for use in spraying chemical or biological weapons.
_Surrender all mobile chemical and biological weapon production facilities.
In another development, incoming Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan set the stage for a possible new parliamentary vote on allowing U.S. troops to use Turkish soil as a staging area for a possible second front against Iraq.
The Turkish parliament defeated a measure March 1 that would have allowed the deployment of 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey just across Iraq's northern border. That rejection continues to complicate the Pentagon's war plans, but Erdogan has signaled that he will resubmit the issue for consideration as early as this weekend.
If it passes, U.S. troops will require perhaps a week to disembark from ships and get in place for battle. If it doesn't pass, U.S. troops now offshore Turkey must move south to Kuwait to get in place, which also would take about a week.
Opinion polls show that 90 percent of Turks oppose a war, and a clash between security forces and leftist demonstrators erupted Wednesday at the southern Turkish port of Iskenderun, where U.S. troops were unloading military equipment. The protesters chanted: "U.S.A. get out! This country is ours!"
(Knight Ridder correspondents Ron Hutcheson, Tim Johnson, Sudarsan Raghavan and Peter Smolowitz contributed to this report.)
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20030312 UN RESOLUTIONS