- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

From combined dispatches
MUNICH Countries such as France and Germany that favor giving Iraq another chance to disarm are undermining what slim chance may exist to avoid war, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
"There are those who counsel that we should delay preparations [for war against Iraq]. Ironically, that approach could well make war more likely, not less, because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty," Mr. Rumsfeld said in the opening address at an international conference on security policy.
He added that "there is no chance" Saddam will disarm voluntarily or flee his country if given yet another opportunity to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution from November that demands Iraq's complete disarmament.
"We all hope for a peaceful resolution," Mr. Rumsfeld said, "but the one chance for a peaceful resolution is to make clear that free nations are prepared to use force, if necessary that the world is united and, while reluctant, is willing to act."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who also attended the conference, spoke even more bluntly, saying Paris and Berlin had dealt a "terrible injury" to NATO and by themselves had undermined efforts to disarm Baghdad peacefully.
"Recent actions by Paris and Berlin have … raised serious doubts among nations on both sides of the Atlantic about their commitment to multinational diplomacy," he said.
About 10,000 protesters blowing whistles and waving banners with anti-war slogans took to the streets of the Bavarian capital in heavy snowfall to demonstrate against the conference and the threat of military action against Iraq.
Inside the conference, Mr. Rumsfeld also branded as "inexcusable" moves by France, Germany and Belgium to stall NATO planning for the protection of Turkey if a war strikes in Iraq, saying they were undermining NATO's credibility.
"War is never a first or an easy choice. But the risks of war need to be balanced against the risks of doing nothing while Iraq pursues weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
In response to Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer made an impassioned plea for patience with Iraq and said the German public sees no justification for going to war.
"We must not accept the logic of a military campaign," Mr. Fischer said. "We must give the inspectors more time."
Senior U.S. officials also made it clear that they were deeply unhappy at being told of a reported Franco-German peace plan only hours before Mr. Rumsfeld was due to fly out of here.
The German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the French-German plan includes placing U.N. troops across Iraq, conducting reconnaissance flights over the country and tripling the number of U.N. weapons inspectors.
In Berlin, a German government official said his country is working with France on "specific peaceful alternatives to a military solution."
Paris insisted that no specific plan had been discussed by France and Germany, and that its foreign minister had already raised the general idea at the Security Council last week.
Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters he had heard of the proposal in news reports, but he said inspections work only if a country cooperates.
A senior U.S. official said Mr. Rumsfeld, in a meeting with German Defense Minister Peter Struck, mentioned the report, but Mr. Struck said he could not discuss it because it was not finished.
"It's kind of extraordinary that the secretary of defense has been in Munich more than 24 hours, and we get to hear about a major diplomatic initiative through Reuters [news agency]," another senior U.S. official said.
"We're now making the point to every Frenchman and German we find that that is not the way to have a winning hand with the United States," the official said.
The reaction highlighted growing U.S. differences with France and Germany recently described by Mr. Rumsfeld as "old Europe."
Despite the tension over Iraq, Mr. Struck said the U.S. defense secretary assured him that Washington has no plans to close its military bases in Germany.
Washington already has denied reports in the Japanese news media last month that the United States planned to transfer to Poland its troops currently stationed in Germany.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, whose government opposes early military action against Iraq, said at the security conference that the main focus should be on fighting international terrorism of all kinds. Mr. Ivanov, who did not mention Iraq, later met with Mr. Rumsfeld for a one-on-one session.
Mr. Rumsfeld said that if the three-week deadlock at NATO over starting planning for the protection of Turkey was not broken, Washington and other allies would provide defense for Turkey anyway, and NATO's credibility would suffer a severe blow.
"What will be hurt will be NATO, not Turkey," he said. "To prevent defensive capabilities just the planning, not even deployment I think that is inexcusable."
Under a "silence procedure" called by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson last Thursday, each of the 19 allies has until tomorrow to raise objections. If they don't object, military planning to defend Turkey would begin automatically.
NATO diplomats said they expected France and probably Belgium irked by the unexpected imposition of a deadline to break the "silence." This defiance may prompt Turkey to invoke NATO's Article IV, under which allies would be all but obliged to defend its territory.
Mr. Rumsfeld sought to play down his recent comment that France and Germany's reticence over war had sidelined them in an "old Europe," saying that, at his age, "old" was a term of endearment.
But he urged Berlin and Paris to get on board, saying: "As the old saying goes, if you're in a hole, stop digging."

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