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Nations join with U.S. to bring down Saddam

45 countries have vowed support, Powell says

WASHINGTON — Thirty nations have joined with the United States in a "coalition of the willing" to bring down Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and another 15 quietly have promised their support, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday.

Powell told reporters he had received assurances of open support in telephone conversations with the foreign ministers of Denmark and the Netherlands, but that Russian President Vladimir Putin had reaffirmed his opposition to war with Iraq in a telephone conversation with President Bush.

At the same time, Powell said Saddam Hussein so far had rejected Bush's demand that he leave Iraq, but that a number of countries were still trying to persuade the Iraqi president to go into exile.

"He has essentially dismissed the message," Powell said.

Asked when the United States may go to war against Iraq, the former Army general said he had "learned long ago not to make predictions."

The State Department released a list of the 30 countries, one of which, Japan, was identified as only a post-conflict member of the coalition.

Turkey was included, and Powell said even as the Turkish parliament debates a U.S. proposal to use Turkish territory for an invasion of northern Iraq he was confident of Turkish cooperation in one form or another.

Powell also hinted that if the parliament accepts the U.S. proposal, the Bush administration might revive its offer of $6 billion in special economic assistance.

Powell said war plans have been drawn up designed to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties and to warn Iraqi commanders about their actions. He said the U.S. aim was "to make it as quick as possible."

Powell also said he would not attend a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday at which the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is due to make a report.

France and Russia, which opposed war and sought to extend inspections, have indicated they would be represented by their foreign ministers.

But Powell said he saw no point in going, and that U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte would represent the United States.