- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

World leaders yesterday differed sharply on the wisdom of the U.S.-led military strike against Iraq, but many of the Bush administration's harshest critics said it was now time to unite to deal with postwar problems and repairing frayed diplomatic ties with Washington.
Deeply divided European Union leaders, meeting at a previously scheduled summit in Brussels, issued a statement calling for humanitarian and reconstruction aid for postwar Iraq, while Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who said his country would not participate in the war, noted the situation had changed fundamentally now that the fighting has begun.
"At this point I think there is no use debating the reasons why some people think war is necessary and some people think it is not," said Mr. Chretien, who has been under attack from opposition leaders for endangering ties with Washington. "We should not say anything that could comfort Saddam Hussein."
Leaders of France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey and a host of Arab and Muslim nations issued statements condemning or regretting Mr. Bush's decision to resort to force. Pope John Paul II criticized Iraq for failing to disarm but also said he was "deeply pained" that diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis had been short-circuited.
Anti-war protesters staged major demonstrations in Athens, Berlin, Paris, London, Madrid, and a number of Middle East and Asian capitals, in many instances targeting the local U.S. Embassy. Police used water cannons to disperse rock-throwing crowds in Cairo. Sporadic violence was reported in other locations.
But top officials in several countries voiced support for the coalition led by U.S. and British forces, among them the leaders of Spain, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and a host of Central and East European countries.
"I think this war was an unavoidable step taken to eradicate weapons of mass destruction after the failure of diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue peacefully," said new South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Bush administration now counted "more than 50" nations, both declared and undeclared, among its "coalition of the willing" supporting the use of force to disarm Saddam.
Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said in a statement that "nothing can justify this military action." He called the war a "humanitarian disaster" and a "big political mistake."
"If we allow international law to be replaced by the 'law of the fist' … then no one, not a single country in the world, will feel itself secure," Mr. Putin said.
Both French President Jacques Chirac, who led the campaign in the Security Council against the United States, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder issued milder statements of regret for the invasion, expressing hopes that the war would be short and humanitarian suffering minimized.
"A bad decision was taken, the choice of the logic of war has won over the chances for peace," Mr. Schroeder said in a live television address to the nation, adding good relations with Washington remain a priority for his government.

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