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President Engaging in 'Phone Diplomacy'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 13, 2003 – At the White House, they call it "phone diplomacy," and President Bush burned up the wires today consulting with allies worldwide.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president spoke with the leaders of Britain, South Korea and Bulgaria in the morning and made further calls in the afternoon.

The president is playing the diplomatic card against Iraq, but that time is quickly running out, Fleischer said. He called the diplomatic situation "fluid."

In his press conference last week, the president indicated that he would ask for a vote in the U.N. Security Council on the British proposal for a new resolution authorizing force to disarm Iraq. The president said the 15 nations on the Security Council needed to "show their cards."

Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated during testimony earlier today that the United States will not necessarily ask for a vote.

"The end is coming into sight, and there are numerous routes to reach that end through the diplomacy the president is pursuing," Fleischer said. "The president has said that he seeks a vote, and we seek a vote. There are options, as the secretary has said."

The presidential spokesman said there may be a U.N. vote this week or next, or there may be other options.

"What you're seeing is the president going the last mile on behalf of diplomacy," Fleischer said. "There is an end to that road, and the end is coming into sight. Until it is final and the road is traveled, this president is determined to pursue a variety of diplomatic options."

Fleischer discussed the French rejection of the British proposal to enumerate benchmarks so Iraq could prove it was serious about disarmament. The French foreign minister said his country rejects all ultimatums.

"If you reject the logic of ultimatums, you're telling Iraq 'You have forever to disarm,' which is contradicted by (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 1441, which said you must immediately disarm, which raises questions about France's commitment to 1441," Fleischer said.

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