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Blair bids to build support for force.

Byline: GAVIN CORDON and EMMA PEARSON

BRITAIN and the US were this week expected to take the first steps towards gaining a fresh UN resolution which could give the green light for military action.

Although London and Washington will table their draft Security Council resolution either today or tomorrow, they will not press for a vote for another couple of weeks.

The time will be needed to step up the battle to win the support of the other 13 countries on the UN Security Council, including those with veto power, France, Russia and China.

At the same time Tony Blair will be seeking to rally support for the government's strategy among Labour backbenchers ahead of a crucial Commons vote on Wednesday.

And Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, due to make a rallying speech to the troops in Kuwait today, will also warn of the dangers of delaying military action.

Mr Hoon is on the first leg of a three-day visit to key allies in the Gulf region.

Downing Street was characterising this period as a "final push for peace", allowing Iraq one last chance to give up its weapons of mass destruction without the use of military force. But in Washington it was being seen as the final countdown to war.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a tour of Asia states, said that time was running out for the Iraqis.

"It isn't going to be a long period of time from the tabling of the resolution until a judgment is made as to whether the resolution is ready to be voted on or not," he told reporters at a news conference in Japan. Iraq is still not complying and time is drawing to a close when the Security Council must show its relevance by insisting that Iraq disarm or that Iraq be disarmed by a coalition of forces that will go in and do it."

The Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri accused the US of bullying tactics.

"The US administration is putting pressure on everybody. It's a carrot and stick policy - bribery here, pressure there, but I think the conscience of people all over the world has said no to Washington's colonialist war policy."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 24, 2003
Words:365
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