- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

Britain will insist that any U.N. resolution on Iraq be backed by a clear threat to use force, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said yesterday, amid signs that leading European governments are growing more receptive to the Bush administration's hard line.
Diplomatic efforts to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein "should and will come first," Mr. Hoon told an audience of reporters and researchers at the Heritage Foundation yesterday.
"But when dealing with dictators, diplomacy must be backed up by the certain knowledge in the dictator's mind that behind the diplomacy lies the real possibility of force being used," he said.
His comments came as the leaders of Spain and Italy offered strong support for the tough U.S. line on Iraq, including the use of force should Saddam continue to defy U.N. resolutions concerning his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
"We are on the side of those who want to prevent threats to the world," Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar told the Spanish parliament after the opposition Socialists challenged him to explain his position on Iraq.
The center-right leader said he "hoped" for a U.N. resolution but added that his government would back Washington even if the Security Council did not.
"It is incredible that the Iraqi regime for some time has been trying by all means to acquire weapons of mass destruction and give cover to terrorism," Mr. Aznar said. "We will always be on the side of those who like us and with us fight for the cause of freedom and against terrorism."
Silvio Berlusconi, who heads Italy's center-right government, said in a letter published in an Italian newspaper yesterday that his government was prepared to use force alongside the United States if the Iraq impasse persisted.
"Either things change, or it is necessary to act determinedly, using all diplomatic and political means possible, and without excluding the option of military force, to reinforce global security against a verifiable threat," he wrote.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in a tight re-election race, generated headlines across the country by becoming the first major European leader to categorically reject military action against Iraq.
But few of Germany's major European allies appear to be following his lead.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been the most vocal international leader in support of the Bush administration's policy, despite divisions in his ruling Labor Party and unfavorable polls.
He announced yesterday that he was recalling Parliament for a one-day debate Sept. 24 on Iraq. In a letter to House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin, Mr. Blair said he would release in the days before British lawmakers meet a widely anticipated intelligence dossier and other evidence regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
"This should allow Parliament to debate the issue with the fullest possible knowledge," Mr. Blair said.
French President Jacques Chirac, while opposing a unilateral U.S. strike against Baghdad, has floated a two-stage U.N. process that could produce the authorization for military action.
Echoing Mr. Hoon, Chirac adviser Alain Juppe told Le Monde daily that Iraq must be convinced that any U.N. demand will be backed up by the threat of military action.
"France must not give the impression that the use of force is improbable," Mr. Juppe said. "If we make too many conditions, we'll lose all credibility."
One Washington-based European diplomat said some kind of U.N. sanction is critical for many European governments attempting to sell the idea of military action against Iraq, but that many would sign up if the United Nations provided adequate political cover.
"They don't want to get ahead of the United States on this issue," the diplomat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "But they don't want to get left behind."
Leading European politicians have been careful not to rule out the possibility of military strikes in recent statements.
"There is still time for action and diplomatic pressure, and we hope that they will succeed," said Portuguese Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz during a visit to Warsaw on Monday. "But if not, we will not be able to close the door on other alternatives."
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told Mr. Bush in a phone conversation on Monday that the European Union could support, en bloc, unspecified "coercive measures " authorized by a U.N. resolution should Iraq continue to defy the international body.

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