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World Leaders Give Mixed Reaction to U.S. Ultimatum

BY Admin  March 18, 2003 at 1:46 PM EST

Many of the countries supporting a possible war against Iraq have now committed troops for the impending conflict.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Monday his government would commit 2,000 troops as well as jet fighters and warships to a U.S.-led attack. He said that in its deployment plan, the Australian government “has taken a decision which it genuinely believes is in the medium and longer term interests of this country.”

Howard’s comments came just hours after President Bush called him to ask Australia to join his “coalition of the willing.”

Poland’s president, meanwhile, says he’ll send up to 200 soldiers to take part in a war with Iraq.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair is asking lawmakers to support his decision to join the United States in a war against Iraq, although he does not need parliamentary approval to send into battle the 45,000 troops he has already committed.

“Back away from this confrontation now and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating in their effects,” Blair said during a debate Tuesday in the House of Commons.

He is expected to win a House of Commons vote later Tuesday, but many disaffected members of his Labour Party were expected ignore party discipline and vote against his handling of the crisis. Senior Cabinet minister Robin Cook and two junior ministers have quit over the prime minister’s stand on Iraq.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi described the Iraq ultimatum as “a very difficult decision” for President Bush and reiterated his government’s position that a new U.N. resolution authorizing an attack was not needed for the U.S. and its allies to enter Iraq.

Japan’s constitution bars its armed forces from fighting in foreign wars, but Koizumi’s government reportedly was considering humanitarian missions.

Leaders of nations opposed to military action in Iraq were critical of President Bush’s 48-hour deadline.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told Mr. Bush that his government hopes for “peace instead of war” and wants a political settlement through the United Nations, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said Hu expressed the same sentiment in phone calls with his Russian and French counterparts, and said weapons inspections in Iraq should continue.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said there was no justification for a war against Iraq and no reason to end the inspections aimed at guiding Baghdad toward disarmament.

“My question was and is: does the degree of threat stemming from the Iraqi dictator justify a war that will bring certain death to thousands of innocent men, women and children? My answer was and is no,” he said in a speech on German television.

During the past months of U.N. Security Council debate, French President Jacques Chirac led those world leaders who accused the United States of flouting the will of the United Nations in a way that may fuel global instability.

In a speech Tuesday, Chirac said there is “no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to force” in Iraq, insisting that Baghdad does not represent an immediate threat and that U.N. disarmament had been working.

Also Tuesday, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said waging war against Iraq was no answer to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and would not help in the fight against terrorism.

“For us, this war is not the right response to the attacks of September 11, against which we shared the sense of repulsion and united in solidarity,” Raffarin told parliament.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, in a telephone conversation with President Bush Tuesday, expressed regret at the president’s ultimatum on the use of military force against Iraq.

Putin also stressed the importance of maintaining contacts during any crisis despite different approaches on how to disarm Iraq.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s government worked Tuesday to cobble together a deal to help the United States in a war against Iraq. The U.S. military is hoping to use Turkey as a launching off point for its troops in any upcoming war with Iraq.

The Turkish parliament has previously rejected bids to allow the U.S. military to go through Turkey to open a northern front in an Iraq conflict. A vote on the matter is expected Wednesday.