Pakistan seems to back U.S. on Iraq

Mexico also shows signs it would OK resolution

February 27, 2003|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

UNITED NATIONS - The United States appeared to have won backing for its new resolution on disarming Iraq from Pakistan yesterday, a major boost from an Islamic nation that could help swing wavering votes on the Security Council, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

"We are very good allies of the United States and value our relationship and want to see that blossom," a senior Pakistani official told the Los Angeles Times. "The issue of Iraq will not become a problem between us."

Pakistan's decision came as Mexico also signaled its potential backing and as the United States intensified the diplomatic squeeze on key votes from members in Africa and Latin America. U.S. diplomats hope that building up a bloc of support will put pressure on France and Russia not to veto the resolution, which would allow the use of force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

After intense lobbying at the United Nations, in Washington and in capitals around the world, the U.S. officials said that other key countries, including Angola and Guinea, are gravitating to their side.

With Bulgaria firmly in the U.S. camp, that could leave the three co-sponsors - the United States, Britain and Spain - just one short of the nine votes they need to win passage.

But even with nine votes, the resolution could fail if any of the five permanent members, including France and Russia, take a stand with a veto. France is leading the anti-war movement in the Security Council.

Diplomats from the countries that sponsored the resolution said they were encouraged by the apparent gain in ground. But they warned that it was too early to count definite votes, as both sides continue to court and coerce the remaining uncommitted countries, making the situation very fluid. The sponsors are expected to call a vote in mid-March, possibly March 14.

Pakistan's signal of potential support could mark a turning point, U.S. officials said yesterday. Aside from adding an important vote, its critical decision could prevent a move to create a bloc among the 10 rotating council members. Six of the 10 - including Pakistan - have discussed a group abstention, which would cause a resolution to fail, if the permanent members can't find common ground.

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