- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 1, 2002

LONDON Caught between U.S. leaders' increasingly stern talk on Iraq and doubts at home about the wisdom of going to war, br>The prime minister insisted the world would not stand by while the Iraqi leader violated U.N. resolutions on the weapons, but said he had not decided whether military action was the way to stop him.
"Doing nothing about Iraq's breach of these U.N. resolutions is not an option," Mr. Blair told reporters flying with him to Mozambique, Britain's national news agency Press Association reported. "That's the only decision that's been taken so far. What we do about that is an open question."
Concern is growing among the British public and Mr. Blair's own Labor Party about participating in any U.S. offensive aimed at toppling Saddam, just as the Bush administration appears to be toughening its rhetoric on the subject.
A gap between the close allies appeared to open a week ago, when Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain's policy was to press for the reintroduction of U.N. weapons inspections before considering military action.
That did not jibe with Vice President Richard B. Cheney's assertion that inspections would be counterproductive, although Washington has been sending mixed signals about the inspectors' possible return.
Asked if he was concerned that many countries had expressed opposition to an attack on Iraq, Mr. Blair urged reporters to "wait and see what happens."
"I point you back, there is a track record we have," he said. "In Kosovo and Afghanistan, we acted in both in a calm and measured and sensible way and with the broadest possible international support."
"There are lots of reasonable questions. All these questions will be answered when the answers are there," he said.
Germany has been one of the most outspoken nations in Europe against any U.S. military action on Iraq. The German defense minister underlined his country's stance this week, saying its forces deployed in Kuwait to help the U.S.-led war on terror would be withdrawn if the Unites States unilaterally attacks Iraq without a U.N. mandate.
An attack on Iraq without a mandate from the Security Council would be "hard to justify in international law," Peter Struck, told the Berliner Zeitung daily newspaper.
Germany sent six armored vehicles and 52 soldiers from a unit specialized in chemical and nuclear warfare to Kuwait after the war on terrorism began.
Mr. Blair has cast himself as one of President Bush's closest international allies since the September 11 terrorist attacks, but he is likely to face stiff opposition at home if he joins a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Straw said war could still be avoided.
"If Saddam Hussein readmits the weapons inspectors without restriction and without condition and having done that they are then able properly to do their job these are very big ifs then plainly the case for military action then recedes," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio from Helsingoer, Denmark, where he was attending a meeting of European Union foreign ministers.
In Helsingoer, the 15 EU foreign ministers yesterday condemned Saddam for flouting the international community's long-standing demand to readmit weapons inspectors, but added that it was up to the U.N. Security Council not the Pentagon to force Saddam to comply with the demand.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, the meeting's chairman, said the Europeans share Washington's concern about Iraq's arms program but see no point in issuing deadlines or encouraging the United States to attack Iraq.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said a U.S. attack carried "unpredictable consequences."
Top EU foreign and security official Javier Solana said "at this stage the only thing that is sensible" is to emphasize the U.N. role in settling the crisis over Iraq.


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