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Blair Steady in Support

On Jan. 31, 2003, Bush was scheduled to meet again with Blair at Camp David, but a mix of rain and ice kept them at the White House. Blair told Bush that he needed to get a second U.N. resolution. He had promised that to his party at home, and he was confident that together he and Bush could rally the United Nations and the international community.

Bush was set against a second resolution. So were Cheney and Powell -- a rare case in which they agreed. The first resolution had taken seven weeks, and this one would be much harder. But Blair had the winning argument. It was necessary for him politically. It was no more complicated than that, an absolute political necessity. Blair said he needed the favor. Please.

Bush jokes with Blair in February 2001. During talks on Iraq, Bush said he did not want to see Blair's government go down. (Doug Mills -- AP)

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That was language Bush understood. "If that's what you need, we will go flat out to try and help you get it," he told Blair. He also didn't want to go alone, and without Britain he would be close to going alone.

"Blair's got to deal with his own Parliament, his own people, but he has to deal with the French-British relationship as well, and its context within Europe," Bush said later. "And so he's got a very difficult assignment. Much more difficult, by the way, than the American president in some ways. This was the period where slowly but surely the French became the issue inside Britain."

Bush called it "the famous second-resolution meeting" and said Blair "absolutely" asked for help. The new resolution, which would declare that Hussein had "failed to" comply, was introduced in late February, but the efforts to get other Security Council members to sign on floundered.

Pleading for Votes

On March 12, three days after he had declined Bush's offer for Britain to not use its troops in combat, Blair called Bush for an update on where things stood in the Security Council.

"If we don't have the votes," Bush said, "pull it down. We're through." He had had it with the resolutions.

"Would you try one more time?" Blair asked, referring to the key votes of Mexican President Vicente Fox and Chilean President Ricardo Lagos.

"Of course," Bush said. "I'd be glad to do that."

Bush called Fox. "Vicente, I'm insisting there be a vote tomorrow in the U.N. Can we count on your vote?"

"Exactly what's the language like in the resolution?" Fox asked.

"Vicente, we've debated this issue long enough. The security of the United States is on the line. I want your vote."

Fox said he would get back to Bush. Later, during dinner, Rice called Bush to say she had received a phone call saying that Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexico's foreign minister, was now in charge of the Mexican policy because Fox had to go into the hospital for back surgery.

"Interesting," Bush said. He called Lagos -- a distinguished leader in Bush's view, so he was polite. No threats.

"Can we count on your vote?" Bush asked the 65-year-old Socialist leader.

"Are you sure it's time to bring up the vote?"

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