| A US pilot reads letters from his son and daughter at Camp Udairi, northern Kuwait. (AFP)
Washington, March 14 (Reuters): The US will hold an emergency summit with allies Britain and Spain on Sunday in a final diplomatic effort to overcome opposition in the UN Security Council to a resolution paving the way for war on Iraq.
President George W. Bush will travel to Portugal’s Azores islands, about 1,450 km west of the European mainland, to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in a “final pursuit” of a UN resolution on disarming Iraq, the White House said.
“In an effort to pursue every last bit of diplomacy the President will depart on Sunday morning for the Azores to discuss prospects for resolving the situation peacefully with diplomacy in final pursuit of a UN resolution,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
As he heads towards a war in which Arab support would be vital, Bush said the US would unveil a long-delayed West Asian peace plan which envisions a Palestinian state once the Palestinians confirm a new Prime Minister with “real authority” to act.
“We expect that such a Palestinian Prime Minister will be confirmed soon. Immediately thereafter, the roadmap for peace will be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Bush said in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden with secretary of state Colin Powell. Bush also took a tough line against Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a key objection of the Palestinians and other Arabs. “As progress is made towards peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end.”
Washington says that it can attack Iraq without clear UN backing but Russia, Germany and France today refused to drop opposition to any rapid military action by some 250,000 US and British troops massed in the Gulf region.
The US, Britain and Spain have drawn up a resolution that sets Iraq a tough ultimatum to disarm or face invasion. So far only one other of the 15-nation Security Council — Bulgaria — has backed the proposal. Washington accuses Baghdad of hiding weapons of mass destruction and diplomats say Bush might order a strike on Iraq in the coming days, impatient with the stiff opposition at the UN. Iraq says it has no such weapons.
French President Jacques Chirac, who has threatened to veto any UN resolution sanctioning war, told Blair today that Paris was ready to seek a compromise about disarming Iraq but rejected any ultimatum leading to war.
A spokeswoman for Chirac said France was ready to discuss halting UN arms inspections before the end of a 120-day period which Paris has favoured until now.
In Baghdad, a top Iraqi preacher called on fellow Muslims to attack US interests world-wide in a holy struggle or jihad to defend Iraq against a US invasion. “It is the duty of Muslims today, Iraqis and others, to threaten American interests wherever they are, to set them on fire and to sink their ships,” Abdul-Razzaq Saadi said in a sermon at the Mother of All Battles mosque.
In a bruising dispute between allies, the United States, Britain and Spain failed yesterday to persuade the Security Council to agree to their resolution.