February 18, 2003


Britain in plea to US for Iraq war delay: Blair wants March 14 crunch talks at UN (Philip Webster, Political Editor and Roland Watson, February 19, 2003, Times of London)
BRITAIN has mounted a behind-the-scenes operation to persuade America to give diplomacy three more weeks before the United Nations is asked to trigger military action against Iraq.

Tactical differences have emerged between London and an impatient Bush Administration, with Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, suggesting that the crunch meeting of the UN could take place on March 14.

They argue that the delay could provide enough time to convince France and other waverers that President Saddam Hussein has failed to co- operate with the inspectors and that a war resolution should be approved. The Prime Minister hinted at the moves when he told his monthly press conference yesterday that he still wanted a second resolution. He added: "I still think there is a lot of debate to go on before we get to the point of decision there in the United Nations." [...]

America is well aware of the political pressures on Mr Blair, and President Bush went further than before yesterday in saying that he wanted to secure fresh UN authority to use force. "We want to work with our friends and allies to see if we can get a second resolution," he said. "That's what we're doing right now."

It was also announced yesterday that Mr Blair, accompanied by his wife, Cherie, will meet the Pope in Rome on Saturday after his visit to Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister. Pope John Paul has emerged as one of the leading opponents of military action.

Although officials insisted that he and Mr Blair had expressed a mutual interest in meeting some time ago, it is inevitable that Iraq will figure in their discussions. Mr Blair has shown an interest in Roman Catholicism and his wife is a Catholic, but friends denied his visit signalled any intention to convert.

Mr. Blair has certainly earned a week or two, if he feels he needs it. Such a decision also serves our long term interests, provided that Mr. Bush emphasizes that it's an extraordinary and personal concession. When Britain fails to budge France and Germany we want it to be sufficiently infuriating that Mr. Blair is weaned away from the EU and UN permanently. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2003 7:58 PM

We'll need the two extra weeks to equip Coalition troops with the proper CBR protection gear, anyway.

And, we throw a bone to a very good friend in need.

Posted by: Andrew Thomas at February 18, 2003 8:32 PM

Mr. Judd;

President Bush should make sure that PM Blair agrees that if the Axis of Weasel doesn't come around this time, they never will.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 18, 2003 9:12 PM

Chirac will never change his mind, nor will the little Führer in Berlin. The little Führer may one day be ousted by his own party, but only after they badly lose another regional election.

Chirac has no opposition at home and he still has a very good chance to humiliate the US in the Middle East and topple all European governments that are unfriendly to him. The EU summit Monday was a setback for the French president, but he is far beyond the point of no return. He either achieves his (demented) goal or he goes down, taking France with him.

Posted by: Peter at February 19, 2003 2:52 AM

But there are wartime considerations that make March 1, as opposed to March 14, better. To begin w/, it's a no-moon period, which we seem to prefer.

Moreover, at some point, the concentration of forces just becomes too tempting. Especially for WMD....

Posted by: Dean at February 19, 2003 3:21 AM

March 1 the latest. I feel for Blair; but our troops are our foremost consideration. We've diddled to long.

We're going to lose the initiative. It's becoming like calling a time out before the kick. Kick the ball.

Posted by: Genecis at February 19, 2003 1:20 PM