- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

GENEVA As Europe awaits U.S. intelligence data on Iraq at the U.N. Security Council meeting tomorrow, the debate on the old continent's split is becoming increasingly acerbic.
"Europe split over Iraq," "Defeat for Europe," "Eight rally to the star-spangled banner" are some of the headlines across the continent.
The "eight" consist of five European Union members Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark and three candidates for membership in 2004 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
By publishing a joint letter last week expressing confidence and support for President Bush and his policy toward Iraq, they have been accused of shattering Europe's cohesion at a critical stage.
On Sunday, Lithuania came on board in support of the U.S. policy on Iraq. Yesterday, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda joined the other European leaders in backing the United States' tough line on disarming Iraq.
During the past three days, the accusations have gained intensity, particularly in France, where an estimated 75 percent of the population oppose military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Some opinion polls put the figure as high as 82 percent.
Nor have critics of the "eight" spared their anger at the French and German governments, which have led the European campaign against any military campaign without official U.N. blessing.
According to Luc de Barochez writing in the conservative French daily Le Figaro, France made a crucial mistake by believing that readiness to wage war by the international community was enough to persuade Saddam to disarm.
"The main reason that France now opposes the use of force is anger at the war cries emanating from Washington and London," he added.
Other French analysts claim that France wants the United Nations to play the decisive role on Iraq because only there where it is a permanent member of the Security Council can it be a major player in world affairs.
France's opposition to the war, and its refusal to participate in military action in Iraq, could leave it shut out of economic opportunities in a post-Saddam Iraq and further limit its role in the Middle East, according to one Swiss analysis.
Some diplomats in this international center feel that the anger of France and Germany at the "breakup of European cohesion" is partly based on the fact that neither Paris nor Berlin was informed in advance of the letter of support for Mr. Bush.
In a move that surprised many politicians, Alain Madelin, a former minister of industry and member of President Jacques Chirac's conservative party, challenged the prevailing mood in Paris by calling for support of Washington and its war plans.
In what appeared to be an answer to those members of the European Parliament who last week brandished placards saying, "No War," and "No war for oil," Mr. Madelin said:
"The United Nations has never distinguished itself by an ability to act. Our place today is at the side of the Americans to free the Iraqi people.
"Iraq's liberation would give the region hope for more freedom and prosperity," he added. "It would put pressure on authoritarian regimes, induce the Palestinians to abandon terrorism and open the way to a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem."

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