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France, Russia threaten war veto

Chirac has maintained that war should be a matter of
Chirac has maintained that war should be a matter of "last resort."

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- President Jacques Chirac says France, like Russia, will vote against a second U.N. resolution that could lead to war against Iraq "no matter what the circumstances."

But he added in an interview on the two main French television networks that the veto might not be needed because the U.S.-British backed resolution giving Iraq a March 17 deadline had insufficient support for passage.

"Tonight this resolution, which carries an ultimatum ... does not have a majority of nine votes," Chirac said.

Asked whether he believed that voting against the resolution would seriously damage relations with the United States, Chirac said "I am totally convinced of the opposite."

A war in Iraq would break up the international coalition against terrorism and help those who want to see a clash of civilisations and religions, Chirac said, adding that it could also increase tensions between Jews and Muslims in France.

"War can only lead to the development of terrorism," he said. "The war will break up the international coalition against terrorism."

Chirac hinted that he might go himself to the United Nations this week to cast the vote on the new Security Council resolution, saying only that he would "not go alone."

Earlier Monday the foreign minster of Russia, another permanent Security Council member, said Moscow would also vote against the new draft U.N. resolution. (Full story)

Within hours of Igor Ivanov's statement, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov, meeting with French Ambassador to Russia Claude Blanchemaison, said both nations shared the same viewpoint.

Fedotov said the "unity of position" between France and Russia as well as the "unacceptability of the Anglo-American draft resolution opening the way to the use of force" were confirmed.

Britain meanwhile said it would consider a compromise U.N. resolution that extends an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein beyond the March 17 deadline already proposed, Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said Monday.

A compromise resolution could give Saddam a specific list of demands based on weapons inspectors' assessment of gaps in Iraqi disarmament, he said.

Navy F/18 fighter prepares to launch from USS Theodore Roosevelt in eastern Mediterranean on Monday.
Navy F/18 fighter prepares to launch from USS Theodore Roosevelt in eastern Mediterranean on Monday.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was in Africa Monday on a high-stakes lobbying effort, attempting to persuade three nations on the U.N. Security Council to back the anti-war stance of Paris and Moscow.

His first stop, Angola, said it would not be pressured into a decision on whether to back the U.S. (Full story)

U.S. officials focused on what it said was new evidence that Saddam was not disarming -- details contained in Friday's U.N. weapons inspector's report about a drone aircraft and a videotape that is said to show the testing of a bomb that spreads chemical weapons over a wide area. (Full story)

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was within "striking distance" of winning U.N. support for a possible war with Iraq, but the Bush administration is prepared to move against Baghdad without it. (Full story)

The Bush administration has told Security Council members to prepare for a vote as early as Tuesday but the vote could be later in the week. Supporters of the resolution need nine council votes for passage, and no vetoes from the permanent members.

Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said Monday that the U.N. Security Council would vote "Wednesday or Thursday" on a new resolution. (Full story)

U.S. President George W. Bush's number one ally, British PM Tony Blair, was under renewed pressure from within his own party with one leading minister threatening to quit and calling his Iraq policy "reckless." (Full story)

-- CNN Correspondents Jeff Koinange and Jim Bittermann contributed to this report

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