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U.S., UK work on new resolution

Officials frustrated with interpretation of Blix report

Greek President Simitis announces consensus among EU members on Monday

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Despite divisions, EU leaders issue a stern warning to Iraq. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (February 18)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even as France continued to voice strong opposition to war with Iraq, U.S. and British officials worked on a second resolution Monday to declare Iraq in material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441 -- a move that could result in military action.

One senior administration official said the resolution would emphasize that 1441 said Iraq would face "serious consequences" if it did not disarm. The new resolution could be offered to the Security Council as early as this week.

But French President Jacques Chirac said Monday that his government -- which holds a veto on the Security Council -- "would have no choice but to oppose" such a resolution.

Chirac spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country also has veto power. The two agreed that 1441 should be "enforced to the maximum degree," the Kremlin Press Service said.

The European Union called for Iraq's "full and effective disarmament" and said U.N. weapons inspections cannot go on indefinitely without Baghdad's cooperation. The statement also says war is not inevitable and should be used only as a last resort. (Full story)

U.S. sources said that if a new resolution does not get the support of the Security Council in the next two weeks, President Bush will decide whether to move forward without U.N. backing. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned Monday that "time is running out for Iraq."

'Simple and to the point'

U.S. and British officials said the proposed resolution will likely be "simple and to the point."

"It will be pretty comprehensive, brief and reiterate the essentials of [Resolution] 1441, which said Iraq would suffer 'serious consequences' if they do not disarm," said the administration official, who noted that it would be the 18th U.N. resolution dealing with the Iraqi issue.

A diplomatic source told CNN that U.S. and British officials are working on "many versions and there are many suggestions" for proposed language.

The hope is to introduce it this coming week, "unless judging by the basis of soundings" from other Security Council members that it is clear it is "going nowhere."

The same source said the U.S. and British strategy is to "keep the screws on" the Security Council over the next two weeks as chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix prepares his next report on Iraqi compliance by March 1.

The idea is to pressure Blix to push Iraq to comply in the key, specific areas where Saddam Hussein has not cooperated, and to "clear last Friday's report out of the system" of the United Nations. Blix is the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

France, Russia, China and other members of the Security Council seized on the parts of Blix's report last week that talked about Iraqi compliance and as the reason inspections are working and should continue.

An administration official expressed frustration at the way Blix's report was interpreted, saying the chief weapons inspector never said Iraq was complying.

"Making progress is not material; the issue is disarmament," said the official.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice made clear Sunday that the French proposal to hear a report from weapons inspectors March 14 was not the U.S. timeline.

Rice: 'It is time for this to end'

"It is time for this to end," said Rice.

Monday, Bush met in the Oval Office with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, whose country is a member of the so-called "coalition of the willing."

Afterward, the Latvian president used similar language as Rice, saying "we have seen the results of appeasement. ... It is much easier to tolerate a dictator when he is dictating over somebody else's life, and not your own."

Latvia was one of 10 Eastern European countries that signed a letter supporting the U.S. approach toward Iraq.

An administration official said the president and his top aides will continue consultations with world leaders during the next two weeks.

Bush will play host to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Friday and will work the phones with other leaders as he tries to sway the world that the time for diplomacy in dealing with Iraq is over.

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