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China backs anti-war trio

Beijing, March 6 (Reuters): China today backed France, Russia and Germany’s vow to block a UN draft resolution authorising war on Iraq, but the US suggested Baghdad had just days left to disarm peacefully.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair signalled today he would be prepared to go to war even if some UN powers vetoed the US-British resolution for approval for war. “If there was a veto applied by one of the countries or by countries that I thought were applying the veto unreasonably then in those circumstances I would,” Blair said when asked if he would go to war without a UN mandate.

The resolution, expected to be pushed to a vote next week, has split the five veto-wielding Security Council members, with the US and Britain standing against France, Russia and China. A “no” vote by any of them would defeat the motion.

The US and Britain have more than 250,000 troops poised in the Gulf region along with dozens of warships and 600 strike aircraft ready to launch a possible attack on Iraq.

They have pushed for UN approval to disarm Iraq and oust President Saddam Hussein. Those opposed to the US-British position say they want UN weapons inspectors to be given considerably more time to hunt for any banned weapons.

In Baghdad, a defiant Saddam said US President George W. Bush would be committing an act of “absolute stupidity” if he attacked. “We will fight its forces like we fought them in 1991 whether they come alone or under an international cover,” he said, referring to the 1991 Gulf War in which Iraqi invasion forces were driven out of Kuwait by a US-led coalition.

Blair, like leaders in some other states backing the US stand, faces broad opposition to war and a UN resolution approving such action would help him at home. Leaders in Spain, Italy and Australia are in similar positions. “I still believe we will get that second resolution. I don’t want to go outside the US,” he said on MTV television.

The 15-member Security Council meets tomorrow, with most foreign ministers attending, to hear the latest report by UN inspectors, hunting banned weapons in Iraq since November.

That meeting should see a strong exchange over how to disarm Iraq, and pressure is being put on undecided Security Council members, where nine votes are needed to pass and no veto cast.

France, Russia and Germany yesterday vowed to block the US-British resolution on war and China has joined them.

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