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U.S. Threats to Iraq Contested by Friend and Foe
Wed Aug 28,12:20 PM ET
By Alistair Lyon, Middle East Diplomatic Correspondent
LONDON (Reuters) - No sooner had Donald Rumsfeld declared that the international community would back an eventual U.S. attack on Iraq than the world begged to differ.
Slideshow: Iraq and Saddam Hussein
Iranian President Warns Against Iraq Attack
U.S. Confident Support Would Follow Iraq Attack
"When our country does make the right judgements, the right decisions, then other countries do cooperate and participate," the U.S. defense secretary said in California on Tuesday.
Speaking a day after Vice President Dick Cheney ( news - web sites) had contended that the risk of inaction on Iraq was "far greater" than the risk of action, Rumsfeld said President Bush ( news - web sites) had not yet chosen to launch an invasion, but predicted that any such decision would elicit broad international backing.
No way, chorused politicians from Beijing to Berlin.
"Whether Saddam Hussein ( news - web sites) remains or is removed from power is up to the Iraqi people," said Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, whose country was the main launchpad for the U.S.-led forces that ended Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1991.
"It has never been shown in history...that anybody removed from the outside and another person put in instead has made for the stability of the region," he told the BBC.
"What makes us so gullible as to think we know what is better for the Iraqi people than the Iraqi people themselves?"
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said his country, a NATO ( news - web sites) member whose facilities Washington would certainly covet in the event of war, had left the Americans in no doubt about its misgivings about any U.S.-led campaign to topple Saddam.
"We have used every opportunity to tell our friends in the U.S. administration we are opposed to military action against Iraq," Ecevit told a news conference.
Turkey shares a border with Iraq and has allowed U.S. warplanes to use its airbases to patrol a "no-fly" zone over northern Iraq in place since the end of the 1991 Gulf War ( news - web sites).
In Europe, dissenting voices rose in Germany and Britain, traditionally among America's staunchest NATO allies.
Germany's conservative opposition unexpectedly reversed course and issued a warning to the United States against launching a military strike on Iraq without a U.N. mandate.
Edmund Stoiber, conservative candidate for chancellor in the September 22 election, made the about-face on Wednesday when he endorsed anti-war warnings from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Stoiber said Cheney's remarks about a pre-emptive strike against Iraq prompted him to issue his warning against unilateral U.S. moves. "The monopoly on the decision and action in this question lies with the United Nations ( news - web sites)," Stoiber said.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, a leader of the pacifist Greens party, called Cheney's suggestions "highly risky and wrong."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair ( news - web sites) is facing a major revolt within his ruling Labour Party over his support for Bush's threats of action against Iraq, according to a new opinion poll.
The ICM poll published in Wednesday's Guardian newspaper showed that 52 percent of Labour supporters believed Britain did not support any military action against Iraq, which Bush has lumped into an "axis of evil" with Iran and North Korea ( news - web sites).
China, a permanent U.N. Security Council member, said Iraq should implement U.N. resolutions, but force was not the answer. "Using force or threats of force is unhelpful in solving the Iraq issue and will increase regional instability and tensions," Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan Tang was quoted as saying in a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Naji Sabri in Beijing.
In Tokyo, visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Washington was confident it could convince skeptical allies to back military action against Iraq.
But Kyodo news agency quoted Taku Yamasaki, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as saying Tokyo had a duty as an ally to oppose Washington.
"If the U.S. attacks alone it will produce distrust of the United States throughout the world. As an ally, we should oppose this," Yamasaki was quoted as saying.
India, a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, said its opposition to a war on Iraq had not wavered. "There is a consistency in our policy, and it is not going to change in the next few days or weeks," a foreign ministry official said.
U.S. POLICIES DENOUNCED
In the Middle East, U.S. foes, or nations branded by Washington as sponsors of international terrorism, denounced American threats against Iraq in predictably harsher terms.
Syrian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Mero said his country, along with Iraq and all Arabs, would view any U.S. strike as part of "policies that seek more U.S. hegemony and to inflict harm not just on the people of Iraq but the Arab nation as a whole," Syria's state media reported.
Mero, speaking during a meeting with Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan, called for the United Nations to resume dialogue with Iraq on applying U.N. resolutions.
Ramadan said in Damascus that there was still room for a diplomatic way out, but that Baghdad had to prepare for conflict because Washington did not want a peaceful solution.
"We believe that dialogue has not totally been cut off, but it is being blocked by American pressure," he told Reuters. "We believe dialogue is the correct way to solve any problem."
Bush's administration accuses Baghdad of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions imposed after the Gulf War. Iraq says it has dismantled all such programs and wants an end to punitive U.N. sanctions.
Iraq has refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country since a U.S.-British bombing campaign in December 1998.
Neighboring Iran, a fellow-member of Bush's "axis of evil" reiterated its opposition to any U.S. attack on Iraq.
President Mohammad Khatami ( news - web sites) urged an "arrogant" Washington to drop its hostility and improve ties with Iran, saying his country would defend itself if it too came under threat.
"We hope Iraq will not be attacked, and if this occurs we hope that (America) will not try its luck by attacking other countries and realize that American public opinion will not tolerate this policy for very long," Khatami said.
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