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Iraq: Diplomatic Activity Intensifies Ahead Of U.S. Deadline

United Nations, 17 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Intense diplomatic activity has been going on among United Nations Security Council members in a last-ditch effort to agree on how to deal with the Iraq crisis. The contacts follow the deadline of today set by U.S. President George W. Bush for the UN to endorse the use of U.S.-led force to bring about Iraq's immediate disarmament of suspected weapons of mass destruction.

In setting the deadline yesterday, Bush spoke of what he called a "moment of truth" at the United Nations.

The Security Council has scheduled a meeting today at 4 p.m. Prague time (10 a.m. in New York), but it is not clear whether it will discuss the draft resolution, opposed by France, Germany, and Russia, that threatens President Saddam Hussein with war.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin reiterated today that France cannot accept a UN resolution that includes an ultimatum or an automatic resort to force to disarm Iraq.

And a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, Yurii Fedotov, said the draft resolution backed by the United States has no chance of winning UN Security Council approval.

In Baghdad, Saddam said that if Iraq is attacked by the United States, Iraq will take the war everywhere in the world.

UN observers monitoring the Iraq-Kuwait border have stopped all operations in the demilitarized zone amidst U.S. preparations for an attack on Iraq.

In addition, the United States has ordered nonessential diplomats and their family members to leave Kuwait and Israel, and Britain is taking similar measures.