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European Leaders Warn Iraq of "Last Chance" to Disarm

BY Admin  February 17, 2003 at 5:20 PM EST

Although the resolution stressed Europe’s solidarity with the U.S., the nations urged continued work by United Nations weapons inspectors. The resolution, issued at the end of an emergency meeting in Brussels, Belgium, did warn the inspections would not go on forever but did not set any specific deadline for Iraqi compliance.

“We reiterate our full support for the ongoing work of the U.N. inspectors. However, inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation,” the resolution read.

“Baghdad should have no illusions. … The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community,” it added.

The statement also acknowledged that the U.S.-led military buildup around Iraq had forced Baghdad to readmit inspectors and that the threat of military action would “remain essential to achieve the full cooperation we seek.”

“We are committed to working with all our partners, especially the United States, for the disarmament of Iraq, for peace and stability in the region,” the leaders said.

The resolution was a compromise among the group that eliminated the words “time is rapidly running out” that Britain had urged included.

“‘Time is running out’ was not acceptable for us,” German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder told reporters after the summit.

European Parliament president Pat Cox told a news conference he had urged EU leaders to “cool it” and focus on Iraq rather than on internal disagreements.

“If there is a problem, it is in Baghdad and not Brussels,” he said. “The recent debate has exposed the gap between our aspirations and our capabilities in the domain of a common foreign policy.”

The EU statement comes a day after another European rift appeared to be bridged at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The NATO alliance was able to broker a compromise over the defense of Turkey, an alliance member.

Like at the U.N. and EU, Belgium, France and Germany had held out for a month against 14 European allies — as well as the United States and Canada — over starting defensive measures to protect Turkey in case of an Iraq war.

Late Sunday, the alliance agreed to have the military staff of the NATO Defense Planning Council, which does not include France, and not the full alliance make the preparations for Turkey’s defense. The council had already outlined a plan to send air reconnaissance planes, Patriot missiles and chemical and biological warfare defense teams to Turkey.

Despite the agreements in NATO and the EU, divisions between the U.S. remain sharp as French President Jacques Chirac said Monday his country would oppose any effort to draft a new U.N. resolution to explicitly authorize military action against Iraq.

“There is no need for a second resolution today, which France would have no choice but to oppose,” Chirac said as he arrived for a European Union summit.

Diplomats in New York said that talks were continuing about a new resolution in the U.N. Security Council and that officials hoped to have a draft for debate at the time of the next weapons inspectors’ report on March 1.