By Ray Fleming

IT is difficult to accept President Bush's insistence that the hastily–called summit meeting with Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar is taking place to consider what diplomatic options still remain open to secure a “second” resolution on the Iraq crisis. The Azores is not exactly the hub of international diplomacy and if further negotiation were really the main agenda item for this meeting it would have been much more sensible to hold it in Washington or New York. The conclusion must be that this is a council of war. In his weekly radio talk yesterday President Bush once again said that the United Nations is failing to measure up to its responsibilities. And I will say again, this assumes that the UN's responsibilities are identical to America's – which is not the case. With the possible exception of Syria there is no nation on the Security Council that does not believe that Iraq must disarm. The division is about the timing of possible military action. A majority believes that force should be the last resort and that all alternatives – especially the work of the weapons inspectors – have not been exhausted. America and Britain are impatient to act now because they have chosen to move armour and men to the Middle East and do not want to leave them idle. That is not a good enough reason to plunge the region into a war whose consequences cannot be judged and which will almost certainly be illegal under international law.

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