Background: Deepening Divide Over Iraq
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KWAME HOLMAN: In Brussels this morning, NATO Sec.-Gen. Lord Robertson said efforts by Germany, France, and Belgium to block defensive military preparations in Turkey raise a problem, but not an insurmountable one.
LORD GEORGE ROBERTSON: We have a serious problem, and therefore it has to be resolved. Where there are deadlocks in the alliance, we usually arrive at a consensus solution in due course and that is what will happen here again today. But I don’t underestimate the seriousness of the division that there is within the alliance, but that division is still about the timing of the tasking and not over whether the tasking is going to take place.
KWAME HOLMAN: In Washington, administration officials immediately criticized the decision of Belgium, France, and Germany. At a press conference with Australia’s prime minister, Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld vowed Turkey will get defensive military help.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The planning’s going to go forward outside of NATO if necessary, the plan to see that Turkey’s circumstance is as it should be. It’s an important ally in NATO. It’s a moderate Muslim state. And it seems to me that those three countries taking that position prevents NATO from fulfilling its obligation to a NATO ally.
KWAME HOLMAN: Separately, Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin met with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris. Afterward, they announced Russia would join France and Germany in a declaration calling for enhanced U.N. weapons inspections as a way to avoid war in Iraq.
PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN (Translated): We demanded that Iraq let in inspectors. They are working there. The international community trusts them. What are they saying? Are they saying Iraq is refusing to comply? No, indeed, only just now, Blix and Baradei, announced that Iraq is going further to satisfy the U.N. Inspectors.
PRES. JACQUES CHIRAC ( Translated ): The use of force could only be a last resort. France, Germany and Russia are determined to give every chance for a peaceful disarmament of Iraq.
KWAME HOLMAN: The rift over the urgency of military action also cropped up this weekend at a security conference in Munich attended by top defense officials from the U.S., Europe, and Russia. The debate drew this from Sec. Rumsfeld.
DONALD RUMSFELD: It’s difficult to believe that there still could be questions in the minds of reasonable people open to the facts before them. The threat is there to see and if the worst were to happen and if we had nothing to stop it, not one of us here today could honestly say that it was a surprise. It will not be a surprise. We are on notice, each of our nations, each of us individually, and really the only question is what will we do about it. We all hope for a peaceful solution, but the one chance for a peaceful solution is to make clear that free nations are prepared to use force if necessary, that the world is united, and, while reluctant, is willing to act.
KWAME HOLMAN: Germany’s foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, responded.
JOSCHKA FISCHER ( Translated ): We owe the Americans our democracy. They are very important for stability and peace especially. We Germans would never have been able to free ourselves from the Nazi regime without America. The Americans allowed us to build up our democracy, but in this democracy my generation has learnt… ( in English ) You have to make the case, and to make the case in a democracy, you have to be convinced yourself, and excuse me, I am not convinced. This is my problem and I cannot go to the public and say, “well, let’s go to war because there are reasons and so on,” and I don’t believe in that.
KWAME HOLMAN: Reporter: On Friday, the chief U.N. weapons inspectors will report to the Security Council, setting the stage for the next test of U.N and NATO solidarity on military action against Iraq.