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Last Updated:  Sunday, 2 March, 2003, 14:52 GMT
Mexico's Iraq vote dilemma

By Nick Miles
BBC Central America correspondent

As the vote on a second UN resolution of Iraq draws closer, there is increasingly frantic diplomacy going on to sway countries on the United Nations Security Council in favour or against the resolution.

The United States needs nine of the 15 Council members to vote in favour.

UN Security Council
The battle for votes is under way

It already has a number of countries on board, among them the UK and Spain but it will have to secure six more votes.

Being on the Council represents both an honour and a diplomatic dilemma for many countries: do they vote in favour and risk a political backlash at home or vote against the resolution and risk angering the United States?

Nowhere is that dilemma as strong as in Mexico.

Special place

Mexico likes to think of itself as having a special relationship with the United States, much like the rapport Britain enjoys with Washington.

But that relationship is coming under increasing strain because of the diplomatic row over Iraq.

When it comes to the vote Mexico will have to come off the fence and risk being damned whichever way it votes
Anna Maria Salazar
This is a country that has a long history of political non-intervention - its long-held view is that countries should be allowed to resolve their own problems themselves.

So a 'No' vote would seem like the obvious choice, particularly considering that polls show 90% of Mexicans are in favour of giving the UN weapons inspectors more time to do their job.

Economic reliance

But in a world where President George W Bush says "you're either with us or against us" in the fight against terrorism, Mexico finds itself in a difficult situation.

It relies on the US market to soak up 80% of its exports and it is thought that at least four million Mexicans are working illegally north of the Rio Grande.

Mexican-born Anna Maria Salazar used to work at the State Department under the Clinton administration.

She is now an academic working in the Mexican capital and says the repercussions of a 'no' vote could be severe.

"So far the Mexican President Vicente Fox has given few indications which way he is likely to vote on Iraq. President Fox says he likes to see Mexico's role as that of mediator between countries like France and Russia on the one hand and the US and Britain on the other," she says.

"All very well but when it comes to the vote Mexico will have to come off the fence and risk being damned whichever way it votes."

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