[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated:  Monday, 24 February, 2003, 21:21 GMT
UK unveils 'timetable' to war
British troops in Kuwait
Troops are gathering in Kuwait
The UK Government has spelled out the timetable likely to lead to war against Saddam Hussein.

In the clearest terms so far expressed, the prime minister's official spokesman said there would be a "window" for Iraq to fall in line between now and a vote on a new United Nations resolution.

And in a government motion to be put before MPs Iraq is also urged to recognise it is facing its "final opportunity" to disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction.

The US and UK unveiled their draft new resolution on Monday and - according to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw - a vote is likely to follow within the next "two weeks or so".

Peace is not a lost cause
Tony Blair's spokesman

Mr Straw said the new resolution, which is also backed by Spain, would declare that "the Iraq regime has failed to take its final opportunity" with the last UN resolution.

Tony Blair's spokesman said: "Peace is not a lost cause. Peace can still be won, but Saddam has to be forced to realise that this time it's different.

"The resolution will be put down this week. There will then be a clearly defined window in which he will know he has his last opportunity to comply."

Diplomatic drive

The statement suggests that, should Iraq fail to comply fully with the UN following the tabling of the second resolution, the country could face military action in the middle of next month.

Meanwhile, the prime minister will continue his frantic round of telephone diplomacy, aimed at winning support for action against Saddam.

NEXT STEPS IN IRAQ CRISIS
24 Feb onwards: US-UK new resolution due
28 Feb or soon after: Blix written report to Security Council
1 Mar: Missile destruction must start
Around 7 Mar: Inspectors oral report to Security Council
10 Mar: US-UK will force UN vote on resolution
Over the weekend, he held telephone talks with the leaders of Russia, Spain, America, Italy, Mexico and Chile.

On Monday Mr Blair held over an hour of talks with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who has expressed doubt about the case for war.

Dr Williams left Number 10 without commenting on his meeting and Downing Street was also tight-lipped about the talks.

MPs will have a vote after an Iraq debate in Parliament on Wednesday on a government motion.

The motion says that this House "supports the government's continued efforts in the UN to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and calls on Iraq to recognise this as its final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations".

A group of MPs from all parties, including former government whip Graham Allen, were quick to table an amendment to the motion arguing the case for military action was "as yet unproven".

Mr Allen told BBC News Online: "We should continue to pursue every possible option to avoid conflict."
Tony Blair
Blair is launching what he calls a "push for peace"
Labour anti-war MP Alice Mahon predicted if the amendment is debated it could win support from 150 MPs.

In a speech on Monday, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said British troops were poised to take military action against Iraq if it fails to disarm.

At the start of a three-day tour of key allies in the Gulf, Mr Hoon rejected the arguments of those who want unlimited time for UN weapons inspectors.

'Ready for war'

Later, Mr Hoon spoke to BBC News of the "immediacy of the potential threat" posed by Iraq and argued Saddam Hussein had used "breathing space" in the past to restart nuclear weapons programmes.

Mr Hoon is visiting troops at their temporary headquarters on the edge of the northern Kuwaiti desert in a bid to boost morale.
Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon is visiting UK troops in the Gulf

He is also expected to travel on to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Troops in Kuwait can also expect a visit from Conservative leader and former Scots Guardsman Iain Duncan Smith next weekend.

The government has committed some 40,000 British military personnel to join a possible US-led invasion of Iraq. Only part of that force, though, is currently in place.

3 Commando Brigade is at full strength, alongside the major part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

But there is no sign of the "Desert Rats", the 7th Armoured Brigade.

Their tanks and heavy armour are still at sea and will not be in place before early March.





LINKS TO MORE POLITICS STORIES


 

WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Martin Popplewell
"If approved, the new resolution could mean war by mid-March"



INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific