New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has said that people can now only hope for a miracle to avoid war as diplomatic possibilities to end the Iraq crisis appear almost extinguished.
Clark said Sunday night that briefings from New Zealand diplomatic missions suggested that last-minute attempts to get a United Nations resolution giving more time for weapons inspection steams in Iraq had cooled, The Dominion Post reported Monday.
United States President George W Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar were Sunday night discussing a "final pursuit" of a United Nations resolution on disarming Iraq, the White House said.
But Clark, who last week predicted war could begin as early as Monday, said her advice was that the meeting was not so much a last diplomatic effort but more a preparation for war.
She said it was looking bad, "but we all hope for a miracle."
"If the diplomatic timetable could have run, it could have worked. But the timetable for war and diplomacy are not synchronized," Clark said in a reference to the American-led forces need to attack Iraq soon, before higher spring and summer temperatures make such a campaign harder.
Meanwhile, two experienced New Zealand Red Cross nurses flew out of Auckland Sunday to help in the potentially enormous humanitarian effort that could be needed in the looming war.
Louisa Akavi of Otaki and Judy Owen of Auckland, who have both had experience as war zone relief workers, are scheduled to arrivein Geneva for briefings at the International Red Cross headquarters and are expected to be deployed to the Middle East later in the week.
New Zealand Red Cross Acting Director-General Michael Smith said they were likely to be stationed in Iran to help Iraqis fleeing across the border in the event of war.
The Red Cross had been preparing contingency plans for months to provide humanitarian aid for war refugees.