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CNN BREAKING NEWS

White House Now Open to U.N. Vote Next Week

Aired March 13, 2003 - 09:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to turn our attention, Bill, back to Iraq, a diplomatic turn this morning. The White House is now saying it is actually open to a U.N. vote next week, backing off its push for a vote this week on a disarmament resolution.
Let's check in with Dana Bash, who has some fresh information from the White House.

Good morning, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula.

We just had our morning gaggle with Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, talking to reporters, and he did indicate, as you said, that the White House is willing to keep the diplomatic negotiations over the resolution continuing until next week. That was very different than what they were saying earlier in the week, they had wanted to have a vote this week. Now what does that mean? That means if the negotiations were to continue into next week, that would essentially make the March 17th deadline moot, because Monday is March 17th.

They're saying here at the White House they want to keep their diplomatic options open. They want to keep the lines of communication open. And they want to keep talking about this resolution, with their allies, with the key members of the U.N. Security council, trying to work out something that they can get nine votes on, something that can get through the United Nations, at least have a majority, even if there is a veto there.

The other thing that Ari Fleischer said is asked whether or not there will be a vote at all, there was talk about abandoning a vote altogether. He said there will be a vote. The talk of not having a vote is not so, at this point. They are saying they do want a vote no matter what and no matter when it is.

The other thing he made clear is that the president is going the extra mile, he said. He said there is a limit as to how far the president will go, in terms of the negotiations. He said that the end is coming into sight.

Another thing he talked about, Paula, is France. He made clear that the relations between the U.S. and France are even more -- there's more of a rift between the two countries. When asked about the British six proposals, the proposal on the table to give a list of six deadlines for Saddam Hussein, Ari Fleischer noted that France rejected that British proposal even before the Iraqis did. He said to made it clear that France really dismissed that even before Saddam Hussein did. That was really a notable thing from this morning. And he said a veto threat on behalf of France is not the way to disarm Iraq -- Paula.

ZAHN: Dana, you said that Ari Fleischer said the president is willing to go the extra mile at this juncture. It's been reported that the president might take an overseas trip. Was there any confirmation of where he might go, and when?

BASH: No confirmation of travel at all. But he is continuing to work the diplomatic channels by telephone. He did again this morning. He didn't speak with any Security Council members this morning. But he's expected to, perhaps later today. At this point, he's doing all that diplomacy by phone. At this point, no confirmation of travel by the president or by any of his senior staff.

ZAHN: Dana Bash, thanks so much.

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