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Iraq: Rumsfeld Ponders British Role In War

Washington, 12 March 2003 (RFE/RL) U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Britain will make a significant contribution to any war against Iraq, but Washington may be prepared to use force without the help of British forces. Rumsfeld said yesterday in Washington the U.S. has alternative plans if Britain decides not to go to war against Iraq. He later retracted these remarks.

Britain is the only U.S. ally which so far has contributed substantial ground forces to a possible action against Iraq.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair faces major public opposition to his support of the use of force to disarm Iraq.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has rejected a proposal by six non-veto countries on the UN Security Council that Iraq will be given as much as a 45-day extension to a deadline to demonstrate cooperation with arms inspections.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the idea a "non-starter" and said the United States still expects a vote on its war resolution by this week.

"The President (Bush) thinks that there is a little room for a little more diplomacy, but not much time. Any suggestion of 30 days, 45 days [for Iraq to demonstrate it is disarming] is a non-starter."

The proponents of the resolution -- the U.S., Britain, and Spain -- face a double veto threat of the measure from permanent Security Council members Russia and France.