KYOTO — Is access to water a basic human right? This is one of the fundamental questions government delegates to the World Water Forum are grappling with as they prepare for a ministerial conference this weekend.

But with war looming in Iraq, only about two-thirds of the registered 170 countries and 40 international organizations were on hand Wednesday morning for the start of a two-day meeting of high-level bureaucrats to prepare for the weekend sessions. The officials are discussing the draft text of a declaration that will be presented to ministers for final approval.

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