- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

The French ambassador to the United States says Europe will not support any U.S. military action against Iraq without clear evidence that a military response is warranted.

"We would not pledge support. They (the United States) would be on their own," Ambassador Francois Bujon said at a Tuesday evening forum sponsored by Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Even Europe's most ardent supporter of the war against terrorism, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, would not support the United States if it were to attack Iraq in the near future, he said.

Since President Bush named Iraq as part of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea during his State of the Union address late last month, there has been growing concern in Europe that the United States will invade Iraq.

Several European leaders have shown distress about the term "axis of evil." German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he does not wish to engage in a "hypothetical debate" about whether the United States will attack Iraq.

Mr. Bujon stressed that Europe will not simplify "complex and multidimensional problems" such as Iraq into a one-dimensional analysis. His remarks echoed comments earlier this month by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, who described Mr. Bush's "axis of evil" comment as "simplistic."

Nevertheless, Iraq has made conciliatory remarks since Mr. Bush's speech. Last week, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told a German newspaper his country might accept "some form of [international] inspection" to monitor its weapons programs.

Mr. Bujon credited the Bush administration for being "well focused on al Qaeda and Afghanistan," but said Iraq can be dealt with more effectively though diplomatic and economic approaches, rather than war.

He stressed that it would be a mistake for the Bush administration to believe that European nations will support a U.S. invasion once it became clear the United States is committed.

"Europeans are very afraid that the United States will pursue its national interest without heeding advice from its friends," Mr. Bujon said. If that turns out to be case, in the end, no one will pledge support, he added.

Asked what conditions would have to be met before European nations could support U.S. military action against Iraq, Mr. Bujon said, "There may never be conditions for [Europe to support] attacking Iraq."

Mr. Bush seeks to sustain the support of European nations in the war against terrorism, but there have been clear signals that the United States will fight terrorism alone if it has to.

Last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the president "does not rule out the option of having to act alone if it becomes necessary."

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