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Allies prepare for Azores summit

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar are preparing for an emergency summit on Iraq Sunday in the Azores Islands.

The allies will discuss whether their new U.N. draft resolution on Iraq, facing a great deal of resistance among Security Council members, can still be salvaged, a senior U.S. Administration official told CNN.

"The moment of truth is coming here," said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, "and it's time for the co-sponsors to get together and discuss it."

The three will be joined by Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso. The Azores Islands, located in the Atlantic Ocean, are Portuguese territory.

Preparations for the Azores summit came Friday as Chile, one of the key undecided members of the U.N. Security Council, announced it would present a proposal to break the deadlock over disarming Iraq.

President Ricardo Lagos said the plan would give Iraq three weeks to meet five conditions similar to the British benchmarks that were circulated this week. (Full story)

Meanwhile, Bush and Blair sought to allay some of the criticism that has been leveled against their Iraq policies with separate announcements Friday on the Middle East peace process. (Middle East 'road map')

The two men said that once a new Palestinian prime minister takes office, the road map for peace developed by the Middle East Quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations -- will be presented to the Palestinians and Israelis.

Bush said all people in the Middle East "deserve to live in dignity under free and honest governments."

Some world leaders -- particularly those in Arab nations -- have accused Bush and Blair of focusing too much on Iraq and not enough on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

"It is vitally important at this moment to make sure people do recognize we are taking our responsibilities to resolve this issue as much as our responsibilities in respect of other things," Blair said.

The prime minister would not answer questions about Iraq. Bush did not mention Iraq, and took no questions.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer rejected suggestions that the timing of Bush's announcement was based on Iraq concerns, saying that the Palestinian selection of a prime minister was the reason for the announcement.

The U.S. plan as of Friday morning was to pursue a vote on the draft U.N. resolution on Iraq next week, an administration official said, though other White House officials have not ruled out withdrawing the resolution if it did not muster enough support.

Despite heavy diplomatic efforts, the United States, Britain and Spain have not secured the nine Security Council votes needed to win passage of the resolution. Also, France and Russia, permanent members of the Security Council, have threatened to use their veto power to kill it.

Though U.S. and British officials have proposed altering the resolution to win support, France has indicated it may veto any new resolution that could help pave the way for war.

Fleischer said those opposing a new resolution were making it less likely the showdown with Iraq could be resolved peacefully. He said if there is a tough new resolution, perhaps Saddam Hussein would "see the writing on the wall" and agree to give up power and leave Iraq.

"To the degree that other nations erase the writing on the wall, it makes it less likely that Saddam Hussein will leave and this can be resolved peacefully," Fleischer told reporters.

French President Jacques Chirac spoke to Blair by telephone Friday morning. He said the French were no longer wedded to the idea of four more months of inspections and are willing to negotiate a shorter time period -- an idea floated last week by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

However, France backs peaceful disarmament and rejects the automatic use of force in any Security Council resolution. The French believe the inspections process is working and should continue, the Elysees Palace said.

The call was considered an attempt by the French to ease the hard feelings between Britain and France. Thursday, a Downing Street spokesman said France's threat to veto any new resolution on Iraq was "poisoning" the atmosphere as the United Nations tries to reach a solution.

A senior aide to Aznar told CNN the U.S.-British-Spanish summit will take place Sunday afternoon, and that Bush, Blair and Aznar may be together on the island only for three or four hours. The summit schedule has yet to be finalized, the aide said.

-- Senior White House Correspondent John King, European Political Editor Robin Oakley, Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman and Correspondent Jim Bittermann contributed to this report

For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.


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