U.S. encounters more resistance to Iraq plans
China adds to calls to avoid war
Brussels, Belgium (AP)- Washington’s effort to build a coalition for war against Iraq hit more resistance today from NATO and beyond, with allies balking and China adding its voice to calls for bolstered U.N. arms inspections.
A second day of heated negotiations failed to end one of the worst crises in NATO’s 53-year history: a split triggered when France, Germany and Belgium blocked U.S. plans to defend Turkey in a possible new Persian Gulf war.
After behind-the-scene talks throughout the day, ambassadors from the 19 NATO countries met for only 20 minutes this evening before ending the session. Talks were to resume Wednesday morning, he said.
“Right now we do not have a conclusion,” said NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur. Informal negotiations would continue through the night, he said.
The 15 other alliance members support the United States.
The division in the alliance also threatens to undermine the Bush administration’s attempts to muster support in the U.N. Security Council for military action against Iraq. France, Russia and Germany sought more time Monday for beefed-up U.N. inspections in a proposal opposed by Washington.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin, in a telephone call with French President Jacques Chirac, reiterated China’s stance on finding a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.
Beijing’s support means three permanent members of the council — with veto power — are now lined up against the United States and Britain in opposition to war with Saddam.
“The inspection in Iraq is effective and should be continued and strengthened,” China’s official Xinhua news agency paraphrased Jiang as saying Tuesday. “Warfare is good for no one, and it is our responsibility to take various measures to avoid war.”
Besides China, France and Russia also were prepared to block a Security Council resolution calling for war, after Moscow added its voice Monday in support of intensified arms inspections.
In Paris, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin praised the French-Russian partnership against an Iraq war today. “It is up to us … to do everything possible to prevent a conflict that could seriously threaten regional and international stability,” he said in a toast to visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
NATO’s disarray drew international headlines, with Danish newspapers proclaiming “NATO in a historic crisis” and “NATO is the hostage of the Iraq conflict.”
The crisis cast doubt on the future of an alliance founded to fight the Cold War: In seeking to reinvent itself as a force to counter terrorism or rogue states, the alliance has yet to agree on even modest defensive measures for one of its members.
“It is a matter of enormous consequences for the alliance,” NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said after talks Monday failed to soften resistance to military preparations for Turkey.
The crisis, bubbling for almost a month, came to a head Monday when France, Germany and Belgium rebuffed Turkey’s direct appeal for help under NATO’s mutual defense treaty.
A second emergency meeting of the alliance’s decision-making North Atlantic Council began tonight after two postponements.
The U.S.-backed plan would involve preparations to send Turkey AWACS early warning planes, Patriot anti-missile batteries and units trained to counter chemical and biological weapons.
The United States says those measures are needed to protect Turkey from an Iraqi missile strike, as the U.S. prepares to move troops into Turkey for a possible northern front against its neighbor Iraq.
Opponents argue such military planning would set NATO on a path to war and undermine efforts for a peaceful solution. Playing down the threat to Turkey, they want to delay a decision at least until Friday’s report to the Security Council from U.N. weapons inspectors on any Iraqi progress.
Diplomats suggested today that changing the wording of Turkey’s request for help — to stress the need to calm civilians rather than prepare for war — could clear the way for a compromise but a decision could still be delayed until the end of this week.
The split has plunged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into what some at alliance headquarters said was its worst crisis since the dispute over the deployment in Europe of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the early 1980s.
Some diplomats even compared it to the mid-1960s, when then French President Gen. Charles de Gaulle withdrew from the alliance military structure and forced NATO to move its headquarters from Paris to Brussels.
Some of the European allies said the split strikes at the heart of NATO’s united defense pledge.
“This is the most fundamental rule in NATO, on which we, too, base our security,” Norway’s Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said, adding that she was appalled by France, Germany and Belgium’s decision.
In Washington, President Bush said: “It affects the alliance in a negative way when you are not able to make a statement of mutual defense.”
“Upset is not the proper word,” Bush said when reporters asked for his views on France’s diplomacy. “I am disappointed that France would block NATO from helping a country like Turkey to prepare.”
Washington allies hoped the holdouts would be swayed by NATO’s senior military official, German Gen. Harald Kujat, who briefed the alliance Monday on the potential dangers to Turkey from Iraq — including, diplomats said, Scud missiles tipped with poison gas or germ-warfare agents.
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul acknowledged the dispute went beyond the question of helping his country to deeper divisions within NATO.
“There is no doubt that Turkey is not the target here,” Gul said in Ankara. “A diplomatic battle is going on.”
Without NATO agreement, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said Washington would act on its own to defend Turkey. Already, the Netherlands is preparing to send Patriot missile units to Turkey without waiting for NATO.
In the wider context, NATO would not play a direct role in any U.S.-led offensive war against Iraq. Instead, as in 1991, Washington will rely on allies such as Britain and Australia. Germany has ruled out any participation in a war, but France, which participated in 1991, has yet follow suit.