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Powell cites walking away from U.N. vote as option

Says Iraq doesn't want 'solution'

Secretary of State Colin Powell:
Secretary of State Colin Powell: "All the options you can imagine are before us."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is still working to find a compromise on Iraq in the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday, but he held open the possibility that the it might walk away from the council without seeking a vote.

At the same time, Powell indicated the debate on a new resolution could extend past this week.

"The options remain: go for a vote and see what members say, or not go for a vote," Powell told a House Appropriations subcommittee. "But all the options that you can imagine are before us, and we'll be examining them today, tomorrow and into the weekend."

Powell said the United States is still seeking a compromise "that wouldn't draw a veto."

"We are working hard to see if we can take this to a vote that would be a vote that would help unify the council," Powell said. "But we haven't excluded any of the obvious options that are out there."

Last week, President Bush said he wanted another Security Council vote, no matter what kind of support the U.S. position enjoyed. At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Thursday that "numerous options" are on the table.

Powell said the British offer to provide Iraq with six conditions it could meet to avoid war was an effort to go "one last step."

"Not all of us have bought all various elements of the six tests language, but we certainly are looking closely with the British with the Spanish and many others," he said.

But France and Russia say they oppose any measure that would effectively give Iraq an ultimatum, and Powell said Iraq has rejected the British proposal

"Iraq isn't looking for a solution. They know the tests. The tests have been out there forever," he said.

The White House said Thursday that the debate on a new resolution could stretch into next week to give Security Council members more time to consider the British compromise.

"Everything is in play, in a state of flux," said one senior administration official.

The Bush administration had pushed for a vote this week.

The benchmarks and issue of a possible deadline for Saddam Hussein continue to be "studied" and the administration still insists the process of negotiations will play out in days not weeks, the official said. But this official also said not to rule out the possibility discussions on the issue could drag on into April.

The U.S. official said the administration is confident it has a "definite seven" Security Council members who would vote in favor of the resolution, and that a yes vote from Pakistan would make it eight. Chile, and Mexico are still up for grabs, the official said.

As for France's position, the official said: "There is no doubt of a veto. It seems France is more intent on restraining the U.S. than disarming Saddam Hussein."

--White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.


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