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Russia, China, France Blast Opening of Iraq War

BY Admin  March 20, 2003 at 7:50 AM EDT

At a meeting of the European Union, Greece, the current presiding nation, said relations between the United States and Europe had become severely strained over Iraq.

“We have been and are still going through a significant crisis. Nobody can doubt that,” said Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou. “We all regret that we haven’t been able to solve this problem in the international community in a united way and peacefully.”

EU members Britain, Spain, and Italy have endorsed U.S. calls for the use of force against Iraq. British foreign minister Jack Straw said that 14 of 25 EU countries support military action and urged unity on the issue. Straw said Europe should “come together and recognize that we have a common agenda, working for the humanitarian relief of Iraq and its reconstruction.”

Despite Straw’s statement, many of the European nations that had called for more weapons inspections within Iraq criticized the decision to launch military action.

French President Jacques Chirac said he regretted that the United States went to war without United Nations approval and hopes war with Iraq won’t lead to a “humanitarian disaster.”

The German government said in an official statement that the beginning of military action had caused “grave concern and dismay.” The statement also said that the U.N. should play a “central role in reestablishing peace” and “providing humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.”

“This is grim news as war is always the worst of all solutions,” said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, on his way home from a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. “There was a peaceful alternative to this decision, that is what the discussions in the Security Council showed.”

Fischer added he hoped the civilian population of Iraq would be protected and that weapons of mass destruction would not be used by either side.

Russian President Vladimir Putin went a step further, calling on the U.S. to stop the attacks.

“Military action can in no way be justified. Military action is a big political error,” Putin said to a meeting of senior government officials at the Kremlin.

China expressed strong disapproval of U.S. actions calling them “a violation of the U.N. charter and the basic norms of international law.”

The military strike evoked strong reactions from the Middle East as well.

Iraq’s neighbor and longtime enemy, Iran, called the attack unjustified.

“The continued disregard for public wisdom by the United States will completely ruin the valuable achievements by governments and nations over half a century to consolidate cooperation for peace,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

Iraq’s northern neighbor, Turkey, is set to hold a vote in parliament on whether to let U.S. planes use Turkish airspace during the war, but some Turkish leaders were already criticizing U.S. actions. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer had prematurely ended U.N. inspections and “behaved unilaterally.”

In Asia, nations appeared split over the decision to begin military strikes.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said her country, the largest Muslim nation in the world, “strongly denounced” the strike and called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to consider the issue.

India, a historic ally of Iraq said recent reports from Inspectors indicated that “military action was avoidable.” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Navtej Sarna said the Indian government hoped “the Iraqi people will not be subject to further hardships, sufferings, loss of lives and damage to property from an extended military operation.”

Japan, a longtime U.S. ally, said, in spite of dissenting public opinion, that it supported military action.

“I understand, and I support the start of the use of force by the United States,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said he supported the United States and his country would “make diplomatic efforts to ensure that this war does not worsen our relations with North Korea.”

China echoed Russia’s view, calling for an immediate end to military strikes and a return to diplomatic efforts to end the crisis. While Pakistan, a strategic U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, said it is opposed to war and would seek a peaceful solution to the conflict.