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France, Germany, Russia Decry U.S. Attack Plans

Representatives said Washington had not proved its assertion that ousting the Iraqi leader would help stem the spread of international terrorism.

“If today, we really had indisputable facts demonstrating that from the territory of Iraq there was a direct threat to the United States, then Russia without any hesitation would be prepared to use all the means available provided for under the United Nations charter to eliminate such a threat,” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said.

Ivanov also disputed U.S. and allied claims that previous U.N. resolutions — including resolution 1441 which called on Iraq to disarm — provided the authorization they need to launch military strikes in Iraq.

“Not one of these decisions authorizes the right to use force against Iraq outside the United Nations Charter,” Ivanov said. “Not one of them authorizes the violent overthrow of the leadership of a sovereign state.”

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that a U.S.-led military strike could instead spark greater instability in the Middle East and an increase in terrorist activity.

“To those who think the scourge of terrorism will be eradicated through what is done in Iraq, we say that they run the risk of failing in their objective,” De Villepin said.

“An outbreak of force in such an unstable area can only exacerbate the tensions and fractures on which terrorists feed,” he added.

During his report to the council Wednesday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq had provided more documentation about its weapons but that the new information was “limited.” He said that it was possible that the U.N. could structure inspection demands to “single out a few issues for a solution within a specific time.”

Blix also expressed “sadness” that the inspections — now suspended after Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered U.N. teams to evacuate Monday — had “not brought the assurances needed about the absence of weapons of mass destruction or other proscribed items in Iraq.”

De Villepin said reports from Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei proved “there is still a clear and credible prospect for disarming Iraq peacefully,” adding that the potential program Blix outlined “prioritizes the tasks involved in disarmament and presents a realistic timetable for their implementation.”

“In so doing, the report confirms what we knew all along: Yes, the inspections are producing tangible results; yes, they do offer a prospect of effective disarmament through peaceful means and in shorter time frames,” de Villepin said.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said his country “rejects the impending war” because reports from the weapons inspectors show “it is possible to disarm Iraq peacefully by upholding” the inspectors’ timetable.

“We deeply regret that our considerable efforts to disarm Iraq using peaceful means in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1441, seem to have no chance of success,” Fischer said.

The three countries had been staunch critics of the U.S., British and Spanish-backed U.N. resolution authorizing force in Iraq. The U.S. and its allies ended their push for a vote on the resolution Monday, citing a diplomatic deadlock they blamed on a French pledge to veto any resolution authorizing military action against Baghdad.

On Monday night, President Bush issued an ultimatum ordering Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military strikes. In his statement, the president said U.S. intelligence information “leaves no doubt” that Iraq “continues to possess and conceal” weapons of mass destruction and would remain a threat to the world through its alleged sponsorship of terrorist groups.

The president said previous U.N. resolutions provided all the necessary authorization for the U.S. to mount an attack on Iraq.

“The United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction,” the president said. “This is not a question of authority. It is a question of will.”

U.S. and British representatives said Wednesday they envisioned a role for the Security Council in ensuring Iraq’s disarmament after military strikes removed Iraq’s leadership.

“A more definitive work program will be possible when there is an administration in Iraq which is prepared to cooperate fully, actively and unconditionally,” British Ambassador to the U.N. Sir Jeremy Greenstock said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte agreed that the process of determining the U.N.’s role will need to wait until new leaders take power in Iraq.

“The fact of the matter is that the situation on the ground will change, and so will the nature of the remaining disarmament tasks,” Negroponte said. “Considering a work program at this time is quite simply out of touch with the reality we confront.”

De Villepin said the U.N. should work to assist those harmed or displaced by the Iraq war.

“As always, war brings its share of victims, suffering and displaced people, so it is a matter of urgency to prepare now to provide the required humanitarian assistance. And this imperative must prevail over our differences,” he said.

He also renewed France’s call for a meeting of Security Council heads of state to discuss international issues surrounding the Iraq debate and to “intensify our struggle against terrorism.”

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