Russia warned Washington that it would be violating the United Nations Charter if it attacked Iraq without a UN mandate, as Baghdad destroyed more banned missiles and warheads under UN supervision.
Iraq's push for disarmament compliance followed a draft resolution given the UN Security Council Friday by the United States, Britain and Spain, which would give Baghdad a March 17 deadline to fully disarm or face military action.
Although the resolution -- with three of the five veto-wielding council members against it -- stood little chance of passage, US President George W. Bush reiterated his resolve to go to war alone.
"We don't really need United Nations approval," he said late in the week, although his government says it would much prefer to have the approval of the international community.
Russia labeled the March 17 line in the sand unnecessary and unjustified and echoed a threat from France, which also has a veto on the council, to block any resolution authorizing the use of force.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that "if the United States unilaterally launched a military strike on Iraq without a UN mandate, it would be in violation of the UN charter," in which case the Security Council would have to "make appropriate decisions."
In Baghdad, the UN inspectors' spokesman said Iraq had scrapped a further six of its banned Al-Samoud 2 missiles after a day's pause, raising to 40 the number of the missiles destroyed since the operation began a week ago.
"Six more Al-Samoud 2 missiles were destroyed, along with three warheads," spokesman Hiro Ueki said.
Iraqi officials have said about 100 of the rockets were made.
Bush derided those efforts as a "willful charade" to thwart UN inspectors.
He also rejected an assessment by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix that the destruction of the banned missiles represented "substantial" disarmament.
"Our intelligence shows that even as he (Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein) is destroying these few missiles, he has ordered the continued production of the very same type of missiles," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Iraq described Blix's report as "fair" and in return demanded the lifting of the embargo slapped on it for invading Kuwait in 1990, Iraqi television quoted an official as saying.
The latest draft resolution challenges the Security Council either to declare Iraq in full compliance with UN demands on disarmament by March 17 or to authorize war.
The resolution, amended at the last minute to give Iraq more time, was seen as a bid to turn the tables on France, Germany, Russia, China and Syria. They have locked horns with Britain, Spain and the United States, who are pushing the resolution authorizing the use of force.
The amendment states that Baghdad will not have fulfilled its UN disarmament obligations unless "the Security Council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation" by March 17.
The impending war on Iraq also upstaged International Womens Day, with peace demonstrations taking the limelight at rallies across Europe, the United States and beyond.
Tens of thousands meanwhile took to the streets of European cities protesting against a military strike on Iraq, with Italians burning president Bush in effigy, and an English bishop insisting there was no moral justification for an attack.
European women from Yerevan to Lisbon protested against war on Iraq.
Tens of thousands protested outside a US military base near Pisa in northern Italy, burning an uniformed effigy of Bush.
Leftwing parliamentary deputies were among those who gathered outside US Camp Darby, with organizers estimating the crowd at 60,000 people and the police 20,000 people.
The Italian government has sided with the hardline camp in the Iraqi crisis, arguing that Baghdad should be disarmed by force if necessary, while polls show much of the country's population opposed to war.
Thousands across Germany called on Bush to respect the opinions of the hundreds of millions across the world who oppose a military solution to disarming Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction.
In Stuttgart some 300 people held a sit-in outside the US army's European Command.
Clad in pink and chanting peace songs, demonstrators marked International Women's Day outside the White House, where conservative counter-demonstrators urged them to find husbands and stop nagging.
"Get back in the kitchen," Pastor Mark Hines yelled at the women of the Code Pink group, named as a spoof of the color-coding system the United States uses to describe the level of alert for terrorist threats.
"We are here because the world needs to know there are American voices that oppose the rush to war," said Shira Keyes, a gray-haired woman clad in pink.
"If we continue to rely on wars to resolve our differences, we will never truly be a just society," said 23-year-old Anne Claire Marshall, wearing a pink wig.
Meanwhile a London newspaper reported Sunday that British and US airborne troops are planning a lightning assault on Baghdad's Saddam International Airport as part of an offensive to overrun the Iraqi capital within 72 hours of an outbreak of war.
British paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade will support US soldiers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in any airport assault, The Sunday Telegraph said, without indicating its sources.
The Telegraph said any assault on the airport would begin in the hours after the launch of war. Combat jets armed with satellite-guided bombs would first destroy air defense sites and troops guarding the airfield before paratroopers or heliborne troops jumped down from a height of 250 feet (75 meters).
© 2003 AFP