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 Monday, March 17, 2003

  The Test of Wills on Iraq - The Countdown

Full text: UN security council resolution 1441 on Iraq

Poised for war with Iraq, President George W. Bush and three allied leaders set a one-day deadline for the United Nations to demand immediate disarmament of Saddam Hussein."Tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world," Bush said after a hurriedly called Atlantic island summit to discuss efforts to disarm a government long believed to be maintaining weapons of mass destruction.Saddam made clear he would resist. "When the enemy starts a large-scale battle, he must realise that the battle between us will be open wherever there is sky, land and water in the entire world," the Iraqi leader told his military commanders. And Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, said inspections would continue on Monday, as planned, "unless we call them back".

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says France must decide "overnight" whether to accept a US-British-Spanish resolution on Iraq. Mr Blair made the statement after leaving Portugal's Azores Islands.However French President Jacques Chirac has reaffirmed France is ready to use its veto in the UN Security Council to block a resolution paving the way for war. Mr Chirac says Paris stands by its refusal to back any attack now on Baghdad, opting for a diplomatic path.

On three continents, Al Qaeda and other terror organizations have intensified their efforts to recruit young Muslim men, tapping into rising anger about the American campaign for war in Iraq, according to intelligence and law enforcement officials. In recent weeks, officials in the United States, Europe and Africa say they had seen evidence that militants within Muslim communities are seeking to identify and groom a new generation of terrorist operatives. An invasion of Iraq, the officials worry, is almost certain to produce a groundswell of recruitment for groups committed to attacks in the United States, Europe and Israel.

A small group composed mostly of retired CIA officers is appealing to colleagues still inside to go public with any evidence the Bush administration is slanting intelligence to support its case for war with Iraq.

Turkey's new Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out a swift decision on US demands for support in a possible war on Iraq, and is insisting on fresh assurances from Washington."This is not on our agenda at the moment."

Phony weapons documents cited by the United States and Britain as evidence against Saddam Hussein were initially obtained by Italian intelligence authorities, who may have been duped into paying for the forgeries, U.S. officials said Friday.

Tens of thousands of US anti-war protesters converged on the White House in Washington yesterday as campaigners around the globe staged scores of marches, rallies and peace vigils against an attack on Iraq. The White House protest was expected to draw more than 200,000 people from about 100 cities across the United States. In Paris, more than 50,000 protesters, underlining popular support for President Chirac's threat to veto a UN-backed war, converged on the Place de la Nation .Smaller demonstrations were staged in Marseilles, Lyon and Toulouse, while in Athens, about 20,000 marched on the American embassy.In Britain, about 3,500 people demonstrated in York, thought to be the city's largest ever protest, with another 10,000 in Leeds, 3,500 in Exeter and 2,000 in Newcastle. In Bournemouth, about 1,000 demonstrators rallied in a town centre park, while in Portsmouth, about 500 people blockaded the naval base. A sell-out benefit concert in London last night was due to feature Paul Weller, Faithless, Ronan Keating and Beth Orton. The Washington demonstration, which overshadowed dozens of smaller events in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, was the largest of the weekend's protests around the world.

French President Jacques Chirac has said he could consider a 30-day timeline for UN weapons inspectors to wrap up their work in Iraq.In pre-recorded interviews to be played on American television, the French President has said his country would have no objections if inspectors could work within that time frame.

Belgium will refuse transit rights to US forces if Washington decides to wage war against Iraq without the authorization of the United Nations, Foreign Minister Louis Michel says.

For the first time, the Bush administration has identified nine senior Iraqi officials, including Saddam Hussein and his two sons, who would be tried for war crimes or crimes against humanity after an American-led attack on Iraq, a senior American official said.


An American woman in Gaza to protest Israeli operations was killed Sunday when she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer,. Rachel Corrie, 23, a college student from Olympia, Wash., had been trying to stop the bulldozer from tearing down a building in the Rafah refugee camp

North Korea said it could not remain "a passive onlooker" while the United States conducts military exercises in the region, claiming the US is pushing a nuclear crisis toward a second Korean War.While vowing to counter any military attacks, North Korea also said it wanted to avoid war and reiterated its demand for direct talks with Washington

Rebels loyal to former army chief Francois Bozize said on Sunday they had taken control of the Central African Republic's capital, as the president took refuge in a neighboring country.

Israel has officially struck the word 'independent' from any description of a future Palestinian state.The position is found in a leaked answer to an internationally drafted Middle East peace plan.Israel instead wants the roadmap drawn up by the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States to stipulate a Palestinian state with "certain attributes of sovereignty" which would have to be "credible" and "law abiding".

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