U.S. sends 35,000 troops to the Gulf; Report: Blair to ask Bush to delay Iraq war
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to hold talks with US President George W. Bush and chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix "to prevent early military action in Iraq becoming inevitable", the Times reported Saturday.
Blair is expected to fly to Washington towards the end of this month to deliver a message that the United Nations should be given "time and space" to deal with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the London daily said.
The prime minister also hopes to speak with Blix, possibly in London, before the weapons inspector delivers his assessment of Iraq's compliance with UN disarmament demands on January 27. Blair told his Cabinet that the assessment on January 27 should be regarded only as a staging post rather than as a deadline.
Blair intends to arrive in Washington soon after Blix reports to the Security Council, the Times added.
The prime minister may try to persuade Bush that US-led military action should be delayed until a further report from Blix in February or even March, the report said.
But it added the two leaders may yet hold a "council of war", depending on how the Iraqi leadership responds to Blix's demands for more answers in the coming three weeks.
Meanwhile, the United States ordered another 35,000 troops to the Gulf. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed deployment orders for the new wave of reinforcements, which will including Marines and more fighter aircraft, a senior US official said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell reaffirmed earlier that the United States was ready and willing disarm Iraq through military means, with or without UN approval.
"I think the international community...has spoken clearly," Powell said after meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed ElBaradei. "Iraq must be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. And if it isn't accomplished peacefully...then I think the Security Council has to take the action that's indicated and determine whether or not force is appropriate," he said, according to AFP.
President George W. Bush has "made it clear that we reserve the right...in the absence of international action to disarm Iraq, to act with like-minded nations to disarm Iraq. And we are positioning ourselves for whatever eventuality might occur," Powell said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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