World Reacts With Cautious Support to Pres. Bush’s Speech
During the speech delivered Monday evening, President Bush called the Iraqi leader a “murderous tyrant” and reiterated his strong support for regime change in Iraq. He also warned the threat posed by the unknown capabilities of Saddam’s biological, chemical or other weapons of mass destruction could not be ignored.
“The time for denying, deceiving and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself — or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him,” the president said during the speech at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, in Qatar as part of a tour of the Gulf aimed at rallying regional support against an attack, told news services that U.S. and British calls for military intervention were “illegal.”
“The speech contained misleading information through which Bush is trying to justify an illogical and illegitimate attack on Iraq,” Sabri said.
But the governments of Egypt and Jordan said they were encouraged by the president’s assurances that war would not be “imminent or unavoidable” if the U.S. Congress passes a new resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq if it does not disarm immediately.
“We still believe that a military operation isn’t imminent and that there’s a chance for diplomatic moves to try to avert the dangers of such a war,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters.
With the exception of Great Britain’s Tony Blair, who has been at times the sole supporter of the U.S. position against Iraq, European leaders still appear reluctant to fall in line with the president’s tough stance.
In Germany, where recently re-elected Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has staunchly opposed the tough U.S. line, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said an armed confrontation would be a “great tragedy” while encouraging Iraq to “fulfill its obligation” to the U.N. without exception.
France and Russia, both members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power, signaled cautious support for the president’s call for an international coalition to put pressure on Iraq to permit weapons inspectors back into the country on U.N. terms.
In a speech Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said that Iraq could not continue to evade U.N. resolutions and said French policy will be based on the “unity of the international community.” Raffarin also said that no option would be excluded in efforts to get Iraq to comply with the weapons inspectors, signaling that France may consider backing a Security Council-endorsed military action.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also indicated Tuesday that Russia would support any U.N resolution aimed at encouraging weapons inspections and voiced support for France’s more cautious approach.
“If proposals are put to the U.N. Security Council that are aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the activity of the international inspectors in Iraq, then we will support them,” Ivanov told Russian news agencies.
The president’s address received a warm reception in parts of Asia and Australia. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called the address, “a very measured and considered speech.”
“It puts the pressure in this debate very much on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein,” Downer added.
In Japan, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the Japanese government was pleased to hear confirmation that President Bush is continuing to pursue a U.N. resolution on the matter.
China, the other Security Council member with veto power, refused to comment on the president’s speech Tuesday. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman told CNN only that government officials had seen the speech and that Beijing’s position on the issue remains “very clear.” China has maintained that the Iraq crisis should be solved within the political framework of the U.N. rather than pushing the use of military action.