"Bush Asks NATO to Help Avoid War"

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Posted by Lilly from ? ( on Wednesday, November 20, 2002 at 4:09PM :

Well now, shucks. It looks to me like he's actually asking NATO to join him in a war...

Bush Asks NATO to Help Avoid War
President Bush Asks NATO Allies to Join 'Coalition of the Willing' to Avert War Against Iraq

The Associated Press

PRAGUE, Czech Republic Nov. 20 President Bush exhorted NATO allies, as they gathered in this Bohemian capital under cover of American F-16 jets, to stand together in a strong "coalition of the willing" against Iraq's Saddam Hussein so that war might be averted.

"By remaining strong and united and tough we'll prevail," the president said Wednesday.

The first of 19 NATO leaders to come here for an alliance summit focused on expansion and modernization, Bush sought to soothe European anxieties about war with promises of consultation and hopes for peace.

In a news conference with Czech President Vaclav Havel, Bush said a military clash with Iraq was his "last choice" and an avoidable one. It is still possible Saddam Hussein could get the message, Bush said. "If the collective will of the world is strong, we can achieve disarmament peacefully," he said.

But, the president added, if Saddam refuses to abandon his weapons programs, "the United States will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him."

NATO diplomats convening a summit focused on expansion and modernization had already said the alliance would not take up arms collectively against Iraq. Bush instead used a slate of separate meetings with Czech, Turkish, French and British leaders to seek individual pledges of backup if war comes.

"And at that point in time, all our nations we will consult with our friends and all nations will be able to choose whether or not they want to participate," Bush said. He noted that the Czech Republic maintains army units that are among "the very best in the world" in responding to chemical and biological attacks.

As for Germany, yet unrelenting in its opposition to any disarmament by force, Bush said: "It's a decision Germany will make just like it's a decision the Czech Republic will make, just like it's a decision Great Britain will make. It's a decision that each country must decide as to how, if and when they want to participate, and how they choose to participate."

Bush has no plans to meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose recent re-election campaign infuriated Bush by focusing on opposition to Bush's Iraq policy.

Thousands of anarchists and anti-war protesters threatened demonstrations around the summit convening Thursday. The Czech government mobilized 12,000 police officers, 2,200 heavily armed soldiers and special anti-terrorist units to protect the presidents and prime ministers converging on this romantic "city of 1,000 spires." But squares where actions were scheduled were largely empty early Wednesday.

Miles above the castles and cathedrals, U.S. fighter jets patrolled Prague airspace, supplementing Czech pilots who circled at lower altitudes in aging, Soviet-era planes. Intelligence officials fear the leaders are an inviting target for al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

Bush's speech to students Wednesday had to be moved from Radio Free Europe headquarters to a sequestered hotel along the riverfront because of threats, law enforcement officials said. On Tuesday, railway workers found an explosive device on city tracks.

Emphasizing unity, NATO leaders are to approve invitations to seven former communist states: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Their membership, Bush said, will invigorate the alliance and offer greater military security to a world in turmoil.

"The enemy is not Russia. The enemy is global terrorists who hate freedom, and together we can work to defeat that enemy in the name of freedom," Bush said.

The alliance is also due to announce plans for a 21,000-strong rapid response force that could mobilize in seven to 30 days to confront threats from terrorists, renegade governments or regional crises.

On Iraq, Havel said the Czech people prefer that Saddam peacefully surrender his weapons of mass destruction. "If, however, the need to use force were to arise, I believe NATO should give honest and speedy consideration to its engagement as an alliance," the Czech president said.

He emphasized his desire to see a collective NATO expression of support, whether military or political, and said he hopes NATO will address the Iraq crisis in a formal statement.

If there is military action to be taken in Iraq, count on the Czech Republic to be "a partner of the United States, Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told reporters after a separate meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Bush declined to say whether his "zero tolerance" policy toward Iraq would apply to Iraqi attempts to shoot down coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone.

"We'll deal with that," Bush said, without elaborating. "The United States will take appropriate action."

He was also meeting Wednesday with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey, whose country shares a border with Iraq and offers military bases critical to any U.S.-led attack.

The administration disclosed that U.S. ambassadors in 50 countries have been told to solicit support from allies for personnel and equipment to assist American forces in the war on terrorism and, possibly, on Iraq.

A senior administration official said the preliminary surveys are meant to formalize ad-hoc offers of support made to Washington over recent months.

Diplomats from several NATO nations, including the United States and Germany, said Tuesday they were negotiating a summit statement that would echo United Nations' demands that Iraq allow unfettered weapons inspections.

Germany wants the statement not to go beyond the U.N. Security Council resolution that threatens "serious consequences" if Saddam doesn't cooperate, a German official said.

Several White House officials said they were pushing for nothing more, largely because they couldn't secure a stronger show of unity from reluctant allies.

On the Net: Prague summit:

-- Lilly
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