WASHINGTON - The Bush administration and its closest ally, Britain, are planning to present a new resolution to the United Nations Security Council on Monday in a bid for support to use force to disarm Iraq.
Finishing touches were being put on the resolution yesterday. Adoption is by no means assured. A majority of the 15 council members are opposed to war at least until chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix gives his report March 1.
Colin L. Powell said a headcount was "academic" because the resolution demanding Iraqi disarmament had not been put forward.
Powell, who is scheduled to fly to Japan today for the start of a five-day Asia trip, juggled resolution diplomacy with stressful negotiations with Turkey, a potential key ally in any war.
Turkey is balking at U.S. terms for an economic aid package. Powell, who interceded Wednesday with Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, said he had told the Turkish leader "our position was firm with respect to the kind of assistance we could provide." However, Powell said, "there may be some other creative things we can do."
As for the expected U.N. resolution, the Bush administration sees little value in extending inspections and much to worry about in Iraq's connection to al-Qaida and other terror groups.
One U.S. official said the projected day for presenting the resolution was Monday but that it could slip a day or two.
Powell said: "We won't put a resolution down unless we intend to fight for the resolution, unless we believe we can make the case that it is appropriate."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday evening that the buildup of tens of thousands of troops in the Persian Gulf region has reached the point that they could launch an invasion if the president orders one. Asked on PBS' NewsHour With Jim Lehrer if the U.S. and British forces massed in the area are ready to go to war, Rumsfeld replied: "Yes."
Meanwhile, four U.S. military transport planes carrying troops and equipment landed near Romania's Black Sea coast last night, airport officials said, in what appeared to be the start of a new stage of the buildup of forces against Iraq.
The planes carried about 250 troops as well as equipment and food. They were to remain in Romania until Monday, said Alexandru Bazdac, an airport official in Constanta.
On basing U.S. troops in Turkey, Gul said in Ankara that a statement would be made today. He did not elaborate.
Powell did not provide details about the refinements in the U.S. aid package that were under consideration. But another U.S. official said one approach might be to seek a $1 billion congressional appropriation that would then permit Turkey to obtain loans at preferential U.S. government rates for many times that amount.
"We are waiting to hear back from the Turks," Powell said. "I think they understand the importance of this issue to us, and to our efforts, and they've got it under consideration now."
Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said in Ankara he did not expect a crucial vote on whether to accept U.S. combat soldiers before next week. "We're somewhere close to an end in the negotiations," Yakis said.
Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan said the dispute could be resolved "within days." Turkey has asked for $10 billion in aid, while the United States has offered about $6 billion.
Ships carrying equipment for a U.S. infantry division are at sea. The United States wants to base tens of thousands of soldiers in Turkey to open a possible northern front against Iraq.
The dispute with Turkey is one of many problems the Bush administration has as it tries to build support for an attack on Iraq if Hussein doesn't disarm quickly.
Implying the United States might deploy troops elsewhere if terms could not be reached with Turkey, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said "we have to deal with realities, and we will."
Meanwhile, President Bush sought to keep pressure on the Security Council, telling an Atlanta audience, "Denial and endless delay in the face of growing danger is not an option."
The president has said the council risks irrelevance if it does not face up to Iraq's defiance of more than 10 years of disarmament resolutions.
Bush also has said if the council does not approve a second resolution he is prepared to go to war with a "coalition of the willing."
U.S., British are readying new resolution for U.N.
Powell continues talks with Turkey on aid; troops land in Romania
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