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U.S., Britain, Spain To Hold Summit On Iraq

Washington, 14 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush is set to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for a summit on the Iraq crisis on 16 March. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer today said the summit on Portugal's Azores Islands will focus on prospects for a diplomatic resolution on Iraq, as well as what he called "final pursuit of a United Nations resolution."

Spain, Britain, and the United States are pressing the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution giving Iraq a firm deadline to disarm or face war, but the draft faces a possible veto.

Fleischer said the United States is pursuing a vote on the resolution next week. French President Jacques Chirac today repeated that France rejects any UN resolution that will automatically trigger war.

France's position was criticized yesterday by the U.S. and Great Britain and today by Japan and Australia.

The Japanese government's spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, said in Tokyo today that, "Despite Britain's six proposals, France is insisting that it would rather use its right to veto rather than compromise. I think this attitude is regrettable. I think that France should make an effort to reach some sort of compromise with other countries."

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Australian television in Sydney today that: "I'm still entertaining the hope that we may be able to achieve a peaceful disarmament of Iraq, but we won't achieve that peaceful disarmament if we continue to have spoiling tactics from, say, the French, who appear intent on saying no to everything irrespective of its merits."

Meanwhile, Iraq today destroyed another four of its banned Al-Sumud 2 missiles under the supervision of UN weapons inspectors.

And, in Sweden, Iraq's highest-ranking diplomat there said today that the government in Stockholm decided to expel him as an act of allegiance to the United States.

The Swedish government said it will expel Iraqi charge d'affaires Qassim al-Zuhairi next week because he was spying on Iraqi refugees living in Sweden.

Al-Zuhairi denied the allegation and said the expulsion, "will be perceived from the Iraqi side as Swedish participation in the planned U.S. war against Iraq."

"Unfortunately, the Swedish government has surrendered to the U.S. pressures. It is a regrettable decision. We have worked very hard to develop our country's relations with Sweden in all fields. We have discharged our diplomatic mission with strict observation of Swedish laws and regulations."

The United States last week expelled two Iraqi diplomats accredited to the United Nations for allegedly spying, and asked some 60 other countries to expel suspected Iraqi spies that the United States believes are threats to its interests abroad.

Sweden is the fourth country to expel Iraqi diplomats after the request was made.

Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said yesterday that anyone who believes the Swedish decision was related to the U.S. request is "confused."

Russia's Foreign Ministry today said it has turned down a U.S. request to expel Iraqi diplomats from Moscow. A spokesman said the Foreign Ministry believes the request is "unacceptable" and will not take such a step.

The United States has asked some 60 countries to expel Iraqi diplomats that U.S. officials believe are acting as intelligence agents.

The United States last week announced the expulsion of two Iraqi workers at the United Nations on charges of spying.