President Bush Wins NATO Backing on Iraq
The alliance’s leaders issued a four-paragraph communique affirming their commitment to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441.
“NATO Allies stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the U.N. to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions, with UNSCR 1441,” the statement said. “We recall that the Security Council in this resolution has warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violation of its obligations.”
The allies, however, stopped short of agreeing to go to war and remain deeply divided over how to proceed in the case of conflict. Despite signing the NATO statement, Germany and France were vocal in their disagreement with U.S. policy.
“Our position is completely clear,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. “We will not take part in a military strike against Iraq.”
The Iraq issue has consumed the Prague summit thus far, overshadowing the formal invitation of NATO membership to seven former communist countries — Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the former Soviet republics of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
All 19 NATO member nations have hailed the decision to expand. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson met the move with praise, saying, “For NATO, Prague is a transformation summit, it is a truly defining moment for the Atlantic alliance. We will welcome new members, take on new missions, modernize our military capabilities and strengthen our relations with friends and partners throughout the Euro-Atlantic area.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the addition of the seven countries represents “the importance of the trans-Atlantic alliance. It also deepens the stability of Europe, which is the historic mission of the alliance and, taken together with the new relationship between the alliance and Russia, I think it marks a profound step in improving European security.”
President Bush said that by welcoming seven members, “We will not only add to our military capabilities, we will refresh the spirit of this great democratic alliance.”
The seven new countries will formally join NATO in May 2004, after the U.S. Senate and the parliaments of all NATO member countries ratify the expansion.