- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

From combined dispatches
BRUSSELS European leaders united yesterday behind a declaration affirming solidarity with the United States and warning Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein that his country has one "last chance" to disarm peacefully.
But the declaration set no deadline and was overshadowed by a pledge from French President Jacques Chirac to block a new U.N. resolution threatening war.
Turkey, meanwhile, signaled that it was delaying a decision on allowing U.S. troops to deploy on Turkish soil.
The EU statement, released after a four-hour meeting in Brussels, demanded more time for U.N. weapon inspectors but did not give a deadline.
"They must be given the time and resources that the U.N. Security Council believes they need," the declaration said.
It reflected a division that has split the European Union, with France and Germany opposing military action against Baghdad.
Britain, Washington's chief ally in the bloc, had sought a statement calling for swift action to disarm Iraq.
The deadlock in Europe presaged a heated debate on Iraq at the United Nations this week, where the United States and Britain plan to push for a Security Council resolution to disarm Baghdad by force.
The resolution is likely to be circulated tomorrow after two days of open debate, diplomats said.
The envoys, who spoke to the Associated Press in New York on the condition of anonymity, said they expected Security Council negotiations on the draft to be wrapped up by the time chief weapons inspector Hans Blix delivers his next report March 1.
The EU leaders agreed yesterday that Iraq must disarm but said that "war is not inevitable." The declaration also recognized the French-German drive for a peaceful solution, calling war "a last resort."
"Baghdad should have no illusions. It must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully. The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance," it said.
The declaration did not contain the phrase, pushed by Britain, that "time is running out."
"That was not acceptable for us," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told reporters.
In the declaration, the EU leaders said the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf had forced Saddam to work with the arms inspectors.
"We are committed to working with all our partners, especially the United States, for the disarmament of Iraq, for peace and stability in the region," they said.
The summit earlier appeared headed for a rupture after France said it would block any early move to war.
Mr. Chirac said on his arrival in Brussels that France would oppose any effort to draft a new U.N. resolution authorizing war at this time.
"There is no need for a second resolution today, which France would have no choice but to oppose," he said. France has a veto on the Security Council.
Mr. Chirac, speaking at a news conference later, attacked Eastern European nations who signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq, sayiing it could jeopardize their chances of joining the European Union.
"It is not really responsible behavior," he told reporters. "It is not well-brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."
Mr. Chirac was angered when EU candidates Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined pro-U.S. bloc members, such as Britain, Spain and Italy, last month in a letter supporting Washington's line on Iraq against the more dovish stance of France and Germany.
Paris was further upset when 10 other Eastern European nations signed a similar letter a few days later.
France argued that the moves aggravated splits in the 15-nation European Union and backed the ideas put forward by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had earlier spoken of France and Germany as "old Europe" in contrast to the easterners seeking to join the European Union and NATO.
"Concerning the candidate countries, honestly I felt they acted frivolously because entry into the European Union implies a minimum of understanding for the others," Mr. Chirac told reporters yesterday.
In other developments yesterday:
Turkey's prime minister ruled out a parliamentary vote to allow tens of thousands of U.S. combat troops on its territory until Turkish and U.S. officials agree on the conditions of the deployment.
The parliament had been expected to vote today, and Washington has told Turkey that time is running out. A delay could hamper U.S. plans to open a northern front in an Iraq war.
One of the main sticking points in U.S.-Turkish negotiations is the economic aid package that would compensate Turkey for any losses incurred in such a war, diplomats said.
Iraq reported the first flight by an American U-2 surveillance plane yesterday in support of the inspection mission, marking another concession by Saddam's regime to stave off a U.S.-led attack.
The U-2 flight took place only a week after the United Nations and Baghdad broke an impasse that had kept the reconnaissance plane grounded since the start of inspections in November.
European parliamentary leaders, who met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of the EU summit, said he stressed that he did not want the inspections to go on too long.

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