In a shift, the White House says President Bush is now open to delaying until next week a vote on a proposed U-N resolution that would open the way to war against Iraq.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president is pursuing diplomacy to the fullest, and diplomatic activity on the measure could end Friday, or continue into next week.
With the U-N Security Council still deadlocked, Secretary of State Colin Powell said today (Thursday) it is possible there may not be a vote on the new resolution if there appears to be no hope of avoiding a veto by France. He said all options are on the table, but whatever happens, a "day of reckoning" is approaching for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Reacting to harsh criticism by the United States and Britain, France said it is prepared to work with its council partners on a solution involving benchmarks and a reasonable timeframe for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. Earlier, France and Germany rejected a British compromise proposal that set six conditions for Baghdad to prove it is disarming.
The new draft resolution on Iraq faces opposition from at least five Security Council members, including France and Russia -- both permanent Council members with veto power.
The measure in its current form gives Iraq until March 17th to prove it has rid itself of banned weapons, or face military action.
The U-N Security Council is debating the Iraq crisis later today.
Meanwhile, diplomats in Baghdad say Iraq now plans to give U-N arms inspectors a report on the status of anthrax and VX nerve gas it produced. Inspectors have repeatedly called for Iraq to give a full accounting of its chemical and biological weapons, which Iraqi officials have said they destroyed shortly after the Gulf War in 1991.
U-N Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging council members to cooperate and work in search of a compromise. Speaking to reporters today, Mr. Annan said regardless of how the conflict over Iraq is solved, the council will have to work together in the future to resolve other crises.