EU and US split on military action against Iraq

US President George Bush has so far failed to win support of his European allies for a possible military action to oust the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The US administration is considering a full-scale attack against Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. The Bush administration, though, has so far failed to win the support of its closest allies in Europe. While only the British Prime Minister Tony Blair has given unequivocal support, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder expressed strong opposition to any US-led military campaign against Iraq, even if the UN Security Council gave backing for the use of force. Mr Schröder has also accused President Bush of failing to consult his allies. Another key EU country, France is also sceptical of the need for military action to topple Saddam Hussein. The Dutch Foreign Ministers Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has written in a letter to Parliament that he does not exclude the possibility of a military intervention against Iraq.

The US says it has evidence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction programmes in Iraq. UN weapons inspectors were driven out of Iraq in 1998 after seeking such weapons that Saddam Hussein had promised to give up in accordance with UN resolutions. The EU has called on Iraq to allow the UN weapons inspectors to return, but Saddam Hussein has so far failed to comply with the demand.

Bush administration officials said on 5 September that the President was considering a UN Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for weapons inspections to resume. The resolution could imply military action if Saddam Hussein failed to comply. President Bush is expected to speak by telephone with key members of the Security Council on 6 September to persuade them that military action against Iraq is essential. However, Russia and China, both of whom have a vote in the Security Council, have expressed their opposition to US plans.

The 22-nation Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told a press conference in Cairo on 5 September that any attack would "open the gates of hell" in the region and that no Arab country would join it. Mr Moussa said that the return of weapons inspectors "should be the subject of discussions between Iraq and the secretary general of the UN."

Nearly 100 US and British planes are reported to have conducted limited air strikes against Iraqi defence facilities southwest of Baghdad on 6 September as part of the enforcement of the air-exclusion zones over Iraq.


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