- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

From combined dispatches
LONDON The leaders of eight European countries, with France and Germany notably absent, called on Europe to stand united with America in its efforts to disarm Iraq, in a letter published in today's Times of London newspaper.
The leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic warned that the credibility of the United Nations was on the line in the crisis.
"Our strength lies in unity," the letter said, adding that Monday's U.N. weapons inspectors' report confirmed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's pattern of "deception, denial and non-compliance."
The article was signed by prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain, Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal, Peter Medgyessy of Hungary, Leszek Miller of Poland, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark and President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic.
Mr. Blair, meanwhile, echoed President Bush yesterday, linking Iraq with al Qaeda militants, while embarking on a global effort to line up support for a military ouster of Saddam Hussein.
Until now, Britain has been far more equivocal in linking Saddam to the global war on terror. In testimony last week Mr. Blair talked only of "loose links between al Qaeda and various people in Iraq" and specifically ruled out using a potential tie as justification for attacking Iraq.
Mr. Blair, who flies to Washington this week to meet Mr. Bush, talked to the leaders of France, Canada, Australia, Turkey and Greece on Tuesday.
"We do know of links between al Qaeda and Iraq we cannot be sure of the exact extent of those links," he told Parliament.
Mr. Bush used his State of the Union speech Tuesday to say Iraq had shown "utter contempt" for the United Nations and that intelligence showed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "aids and protects terrorists" including members of al Qaeda.
A British Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday that Britain believed al Qaeda elements were present both in northern Iraq, beyond the reach of Baghdad, and in the rest of the country where Saddam retains full control.
"It's hard to imagine they have been there without the knowledge and acquiescence of Baghdad," he said.
Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush have been criticized, in Europe and elsewhere, for targeting Iraq when terror organizations such as al Qaeda are still operating with lethal effect.
Linking the two could help make the case for war on Iraq.
"Links with al Qaeda are of course relevant to concerns … of a possible crossover between international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Blair's spokesman said.
Pressed in Parliament by critics of military action, Mr. Blair pledged to pull the international community together behind U.N. demands that Saddam disarm.
"The purpose of what we are doing at the moment is to unite the international community around the United Nations position," Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair, who is sending 30,000 troops to the Persian Gulf region, fulfilled a similar role before attacks on Afghanistan last year, which targeted al Qaeda bases and the country's Taliban rulers. He crisscrossed the globe, building a coalition supporting an attack after September 11.
This time will be harder, with France, Germany, Russia and China key powers at the United Nations expressing reservations about war.

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