- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jan. 16 (UPI) — The European Union stepped up pressure on Iraq to disarm Thursday, telling Saddam Hussein that the international community's patience was wearing thin and that only full cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors could avert war.

Speaking after a meeting with U.N chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: "It is not enough that Saddam Hussein's regime opens doors. It has to be much more proactive to convince the United Nations that it has disarmed its weapons of mass destruction."

Solana said Jan. 27 — the date Blix is due to present a progress report to the U.N. Security Council — was not the "end of the process. However, the former NATO Secretary-General said: "time is not infinite."

Solana's statement represents a hardening of the EU's stance, which has traditionally favored diplomatic maneuvers over military action.

European Commission President Romano Prodi said Tuesday European public opinion "wanted to keep war at bay" and that the 15-member bloc had a duty to "do everything possible to preserve peace."

Germany, the EU's largest state, has made it clear it will oppose any military intervention in the Gulf region, whether sanctioned by the United Nations or not.

Greece, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, is also a staunch opponent of war and has announced plans to send a peace mission to the Middle East.

Solana told reporters that conflict with Iraq could be averted but "the responsibility is basically on the side of Saddam Hussein."

Asked whether a further U.N. mandate was needed to trigger a war against Iraq, the EU's foreign policy chief replied: "It is better to have a second resolution, although Resolution 1441 does not require that."

Solana's hard-line approach was echoed by Blix, who warned Baghdad to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors or face the threat of a full-scale invasion.

"We feel Iraq must do more than it has so far in order to make inspections a credible avenue. The other major avenue is in the form of armed action against Iraq. We are trying our best to make inspections effective so we can have a peaceful solution."

The Swedish diplomat is due to brief French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair Friday before traveling to Iraq. Blix said the message he would be taking to Baghdad was that the "situation is very tense and very dangerous."

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