BRUSSELS, Belgium, Feb. 5 (UPI) — The European Union and NATO Wednesday stepped up the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to disarm as leaders of the two Brussels-based bodies prepared to deliver their verdict on U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the U.N. Security Council.
Greece, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, delivered an uncompromising message to Iraqi ambassadors in Athens, Brussels and New York.
The statement, on behalf of the EU’s 15 member states and the 10 Central and Eastern European countries waiting to join the bloc, warned: “Time is running out. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 gave Iraq a final opportunity to disarm peacefully. If it does not take this chance it will carry the responsibility for all the consequences.”
The EU communiqu continued: “Iraq must completely disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction. We want to achieve this in a peaceful way. This is only possible if Iraq fully, unconditionally and immediately complies with all relevant resolutions of the Security Council, in particular with UNSCR 1441” of Nov. 8, 2002.
The message aims to draw a line under recent EU divisions over Iraq, which have split the 15-member club into pro- and anti-war camps.
EU foreign ministers last week agreed a common position calling on U.N. weapons inspectors to be given more time, but this united stance was undermined when a group of eight European countries published a letter supporting Washington’s more belligerent stance.
NATO General Secretary George Robertson also appealed for unity Wednesday after a meeting between ambassadors from the EU and the world’s most powerful military alliance.
“There may be some debate about timing, but the EU and NATO are completely united about the fact that Saddam Hussein has no alternative but to comply with the terms of the U.N. resolution,” he told reporters.
NATO ambassadors are due to discuss the Iraqi crisis for the third time in as many weeks Thursday in an attempt to break the deadlock over providing military assistance to Turkey in the event of an attack by Baghdad.
France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg have said it is premature to make contingency plans to help Ankara while U.N. inspectors are still carrying out their work.
Robertson said he hoped the “worries” would be removed at Thursday’s meeting in the alliance’s Brussels headquarters.