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White House all but concedes U.N. defeat

Win or lose, U.S. wants vote by end of week

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President Bush on the telephone Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi trying to drum up support for the U.N. resolution.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After days of cautious optimism that President Bush would win at least a moral victory on a resolution setting a deadline for war with Iraq, White House aides on Tuesday all but conceded defeat.

The White House acknowledged in a paper distributed Tuesday night that the council is still divided and "peaceful disarmament looks less and less likely."

The administration had hoped to win a council majority even if the resolution then is vetoed by France or Russia.

Some White House aides said Bush is so frustrated with the United Nations that it is likely to have long-term ramifications.

"He said it was a test of credibility, and the council passed a resolution that says immediate and complete disarmament but now will not enforce its own resolution," said one senior administration official. "It sends a message."

The proposal before the Security Council would give Iraq until Monday to meet U.N. demands to give up its chemical and biological weapons, long-range missiles and efforts to develop nuclear weapons -- or face war against the United States and its allies.

Rules of the 15-member Security Council require nine votes to adopt a resolution. If one of the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China -- votes "no" on a resolution -- even one supported by the other 14 nations -- that single vote kills the proposal.

So far, four members -- the United States, Britain, Spain and Bulgaria -- have said they would support the new resolution. Five others -- France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria -- have indicated they oppose it. On Monday, France and Russia said they would veto the resolution.

The remaining six members -- Chile, Mexico, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Pakistan -- have been the subject of intense lobbying by the five major powers. But those efforts appeared to have had limited results.

Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said he has been urged by members of his political party and the Cabinet that his nation should abstain when the Security Council votes.

Bush had personally called the leaders of Angola, Mexico and Chile on Tuesday. He cleared his schedule of public events Wednesday to again call world leaders to try to win support for the resolution.

Administration officials said the United States would press for a vote by the end of this week, win or lose. In the negotiations, U.S. officials are open to extending the resolution's March 17 deadline by only several days -- not the 30 to 45 days sought by some council members.

According to White House officials, it is almost certain that Bush will offer a final ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Discussions among the senior staff have focused on a "short window -- several days, a week or so maybe," said one senior official who stressed that no final decision had been made.

"It would be the logical next step, but let's not get too far out ahead -- the U.N. piece comes first," this official said. CNN has previously reported that such an ultimatum was being crafted -- and that it would also include a warning that inspectors, humanitarian workers and journalists should leave Iraq.

'Time is short'

The United States and Britain have warned against stretching the deadline to disarm beyond the month's end.

"We have gone for the date of 17 March to indicate to the Security Council that time is short," British U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock told CNN.

Greenstock said Britain is prepared to consider amending the resolution to establish some tests Iraq would be required to meet in order to avoid war -- an idea similar to one Canada first offered in February -- but added, "I'm pretty sure we're talking about action in March. Don't look beyond March."

The Security Council met Tuesday afternoon to allow U.N. member states without a seat on the council to comment on the measure.

Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri said in that session that the United States and Britain are fabricating evidence "to justify aggression against us."

"Their objective is to lay their hands on our oil, to control the region, to redraw its borders in order to ensure the vital interests of the United States of America for a long period to come," Aldouri said. "This is a new, direct colonization of the region."

Britain introduced the current proposed resolution last week with U.S. and Spanish support, but it agreed Monday to delay a vote after France and Russia threatened to veto the proposal.

"We see no reason to interrupt inspections, and any resolution containing ultimatums and contains automaticity in the use of force is not acceptable to us," Russian Ambassador Sergey Lavrov told reporters Tuesday.

CNN Correspondents John King, Richard Roth, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr and Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report. For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.


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