- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

The Bush administration maintained yesterday that it will not be without allies in a war with Iraq even as Russia, China and Canada joined French and German opposition to early military action to disarm Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.
"I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said after a meeting at the State Department with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of Britain, Washington's staunchest ally in the standoff with Baghdad.
"Many nations have already expressed a willingness to serve in a coalition of the willing," Mr. Powell told reporters. "I would let the representative of Her Majesty's government speak for the United Kingdom, but I'm sure it will be a strong coalition."
At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said it was Paris' and Berlin's prerogative to be "on the sidelines" if they chose to do so. In addition to Britain, he named Italy, Spain and Australia and some Eastern European nations as likely participants in the coalition.
On Wednesday, as France and Germany celebrated the 40th anniversary of their bilateral friendship treaty that made them key powers in the European Union, leaders of both nations declared that they were of the same mind on opposing military action in Iraq.
"We agree completely to harmonize our positions as closely as possible to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said after a meeting of the two governments at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
French President Jacques Chirac said that only the U.N. Security Council has the legitimacy to approve an attack on Iraq. France holds the council's rotating presidency this month and Germany takes over in February.
Yesterday, China said its position was "extremely close" to that of France, and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that there were no grounds for force at the moment. "There is still political and diplomatic leeway to resolve the Iraq issue," he said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said in a television interview that the U.N. inspectors in Iraq, who have been searching suspected weapons sites since late November, have not had enough time to probe for weapons of mass destruction.
"I agree with the French and German analysis that, at this particular time, we couldn't justify a war," he said. "But that doesn't mean no war would ever be justified."
Mr. Powell acknowledged that "clearly, there are sharp differences" between the United States and other major powers. But he dismissed the criticism, reminding France and Germany particularly that they agreed to the terms of U.N. Resolution 1441, which was adopted by the Security Council unanimously on Nov. 8.
"What I know about 1441 was that it was supported actively by France," he said. "They voted for it. They were involved in its negotiation. And I also know, because I was in the room when it happened, that Germany fully supported the terms of 1441, including explicitly its final paragraph saying that Iraq would have to accept 'serious consequences' from a failure to comply, at the Prague NATO summit in November."
The secretary said that "if there is any confusion" in France and Germany "that the obligation is on Iraq" to disarm, "I'm sure we will clear it up in the days ahead in our conversations with them."
"The international community spoke clearly in that resolution," he said. "For the international community now to say, 'Never mind, we'll walk away from this problem,' or ignore it, or allow it to be strung out indefinitely with no end, I think would be a defeat for the international community and a serious defeat for the United Nations process."
Although Mr. Powell reiterated President Bush's position that the United States reserves the right to disarm Iraq with military force if necessary, he pledged to continue working with France, Germany and other nations to try to bring them on board.
That approach differed from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's, articulated to foreign reporters on Wednesday. Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to have written off France and Germany as potential coalition partners and moved on to seeking help from other countries.
"You are thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe," he said. "If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east. And there are a lot of new members."
French Finance Minister Francis Mer said he was "profoundly vexed" by Mr. Rumsfeld's remarks. "I wanted to remind everyone that this 'old Europe' has resilience, and is capable of bouncing back," he added.
Mr. Rumsfeld and other administration officials insist that a second U.N. resolution authorizing military action is not necessary.
Mr. Powell took a milder position yesterday, saying he ruled nothing in or out.
"I think that's an open question right now," he said. "I think we have always held the position that there is probably sufficient authority in earlier resolutions, or in 1441. But we know that many of our colleagues in the Security Council would prefer to see a second resolution if it comes to the use of military force."
Mr. Straw said his government "would much prefer a second resolution, but for reasons that are well-rehearsed and understood, we've had to reserve the position if achieving a second resolution is not possible."

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