Union Tribune

October 27, 2002 

President takes N. Korea, Iraq debates to APEC
U.N. deal 'may evade us,' Powell concedes


CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico President Bush rallied Asian
opposition to North Korea's nuclear weapons program
yesterday, but he failed to make headway on his demand for
U.N. authorization of military force against Iraq.

Bush was rebuffed in a personal appeal for support from
Pres-ident Vicente Fox of Mexico, which currently wields a vote
on the U.N. Security Council. And U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell acknowledged for the first time that the United States
may fail to get the tough resolution it wants from the United
Nations, telling reporters that it "may evade us."

But as the White House braced for possible failure on Iraq, it
fared much better in its efforts to build international consensus
to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.
One day after Chinese President Jiang Zemin called for a
nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, South Korea and Japan joined
the United States in calling on North Korea to "dismantle this
program in a prompt and verifiable manner." 

After Bush met with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the first day of an
Asian-Pacific summit, the three leaders demanded in a
statement that North Korea "come into full compliance with all
its international commitments." Japan and South Korea also
agreed to freeze budding economic ties and diplomatic dialogue
with North Korea until it dismantles its nuclear weapons
development program.

The statement was viewed as key to American diplomatic efforts
to resolve the North Korean crisis peacefully.

"Nobody is contemplating use of force," a senior U.S. official told
reporters aboard Air Force One as it flew from Texas to the
annual gathering of the 20-nation Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation conference.

The official stressed again what the administration sees as a
fundamental distinction between the American policies on Iraq
and North Korea, both of which Bush has described as part of "an
axis of evil." The official said the United States would employ
diplomatic pressures to "get the North Koreans to back off their
program," which violates previous commitments.

Powell said the U.N. controversy over Iraq will likely come to a
head this week, climaxing more than a month of intense
discussions sparked by the president's speech challenging the
United Nations to agree that force must be used against Iraq
unless Saddam Hussein disarms. But the United States has met
determined resistance from France and Russia, which favor a
more measured approach.

"We all agree that it is time to bring the remaining issues to a
head for resolution, if possible," Powell said at a news
conference. "If resolution is not possible, then let's come to that
realization and move forward."

Powell said he had spoken early yesterday with the foreign
ministers of France, Russia, Great Britain and China. While he
clung to the hope "that we might get a resolution that will be
strong," he pointedly observed, "I don't want to say that we're
near a solution because it may evade us."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also struck a
pessimistic note in the form of a challenge to the United Nations.
"No one has ruled out the possibility that the U.N. will fail," he
said. "It is possible for the U.N. Security Council to fail to (face
up to) the challenge of the threat of Saddam Hussein."

The president began his weekend here by meeting with the
Mexican president, a man he has praised lavishly in the past. But
this time, the foreign policy disagreements of the two leaders
were on display.

Fox has come under domestic political pressure not to submit to
a U.S. position on Iraq that is widely regarded here as recklessly
bellicose, and he did not change his views during his face-to-face
with the visiting president.

Bush, who has made improved relations with Mexico a key goal
of his administration, suggested there would be no punishment
of Mexico for its position on Iraq. Asked if those who oppose the
resolution would face consequences, the president replied, "The
only consequence, of course, is with Saddam Hussein."

As one of 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council,
Mexico has a key role in the debate and has leaned heavily
toward the French and Russian proposal of a two-stage approach
to the Iraq crisis. The first step would demand Iraqi cooperation
with inspections of its weapons capabilities. If Iraq failed to
comply, the United States would then have to seek a second
resolution authorizing force.

Bush yesterday repeated his opposition to such an approach. He
insisted that the United Nations should pass a resolution "which
holds (Hussein) to account and that has consequences."

"As I have said in speech after speech after speech, if the U.N.
won't act, if Saddam Hussein won't disarm, we will lead a
coalition to disarm him," the president said.

But Fox declined to endorse Bush's position. "We want to look for
and do everything possible to reach a strong solution that
achieves the immediate return of the inspectors to Iraq and that
Iraq fulfill its commitments to the United Nations. But we want
to reach let's hope, this is the aim a resolution that is
satisfactory to all sides of the United Nations."

The U.S. effort to push its own strong anti-Iraq resolution
through the United Nations became even more problematical
yesterday as France issued a bold diplomatic challenge to the
United States.

In a surprise move, France announced it may formally
introduce its own resolution on disarming Iraq at the U.N.
Security Council.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin emphasized that France
was willing to use the draft resolution formally presented to the
full council by the United States on Wednesday as a basis for an
agreement among the 15 members.

But if consensus cannot be reached on the U.S. draft, then
France would offer a competing resolution.

French officials said they were worried that Bush might suddenly
announce a deadline for a vote on the resolution that would
force France into an untenable position. A competing French
resolution would make such diplomatic hardball more unlikely.

At the Cabo San Lucas conference, Fox engaged Bush on another
issue of importance throughout Mexico, urging the U.S.
president to throw his weight behind proposals to provide legal
status to millions of Mexicans living illegally in the United States
and to provide temporary visas for hundreds of thousands of

But Bush's public comments held to the generalities that have
characterized his position since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
derailed the talks and fixated his attention on the war against
terrorism and its related concerns for border security.
Report from the New York Times News Service and Cox News
Service were used in preparing this article.