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UN: U.S. May Delay Vote On Resolution As Annan Urges Breakthrough

Washington, 13 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The United States says it will consider postponing a vote on a UN resolution authorizing war against Iraq -- if the delay will help gain support for the measure. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer today said the diplomatic process may continue in to next week. Fleischer said the United States is determined to bring the resolution -- backed by Britain and Spain -- to a UN Security Council vote, even if it lacks the support needed to pass.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended six new proposed demands on Iraq, calling them "tests" to confirm Iraq's compliance with disarmament requirements: "When [chief UN weapons inspector] Dr. Blix presented his report of 173 pages to the Security Council last Friday, he set out a whole string, over those 173 pages, of undealt with disarmament questions. What we have done is to distill those down to just six tests."

But Straw said Britain is willing to lift one of the tests -- the demand that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appear on television to admit his possession of banned weapons.

The UN Security Council is set to meet today (9 p.m. Prague time) to debate the British proposals.

Also, Iraq dismissed British demands for a revised UN resolution, with Foreign Minister Naji Sabri saying they amounted to a plan for war.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged UN Security Council states and other UN members to find a way to break the deadlock and resolve the Iraqi disarmament crisis.

Annan told reporters that he hoped the deep divisions among council members would not linger and prevent the council from tackling other difficult issues facing the world body.

But he said regardless of the outcome of the Iraq crisis, the council and the UN will continue to play a role in maintaining peace and security.

U.S. and British officials are engaged in intensive negotiations with the six undecided members of the council to gain their support. All have sought further inspections in Iraq and a list of disarmament tasks Baghdad should comply with.