- BAGHDAD/ISTANBUL (Reuters)
- Washington looked increasingly isolated in its stance toward Iraq Thursday
as key powers lined up to oppose war. China and Russia joined U.S. allies
France and Germany in rejecting military action.
- As the United States and Britain continued their troop
build-up in the Gulf, Middle East nations also met Thursday to discuss
ways of averting a conflict.
- The stand taken by Paris, Beijing and Moscow means a
majority of the five veto-wielding permanent members on the U.N. Security
Council are against rushing into war. The other two members are the United
States and Britain.
- However Washington has said it could launch military
action without Security Council backing.
- In Berlin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder vowed
he and French President Jacques Chirac would do all they could to avert
war. "War may never be considered unavoidable," he said.
- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said there were
no grounds to use force at the moment.
- "There is still political and diplomatic leeway
to resolve the Iraq issue," he said in Athens.
- He agreed with France and Germany that U.N. inspectors
in Iraq should be allowed to press on with their job of looking for evidence
of weapons of mass destruction.
- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Beijing's
position was "extremely close to that of France."
- Washington accuses Iraq of hiding nuclear, chemical or
biological weapons and has threatened to attack if Baghdad does not disarm
in line with a U.N. resolution passed in November. Iraq denies possessing
any banned weapons.
- The U.N. inspectors, who are due to present a key report
to the United Nations Monday, have said they need several more months to
complete their work.
- However, President Bush has warned time is running out
- He is massing 150,000 troops in the region and has said
he is ready to use them, with or without a Security Council resolution,
if he considers Iraq has not disarmed.
- MIDEAST MEETING
- Foreign ministers and diplomats from Iraq's neighbors
-- Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria -- were meeting along with
regional heavyweight Egypt, in Istanbul Thursday to discuss a way out of
- "The countries ... (at) the Istanbul meeting all
have friendly relations with the United States," Iraqi Ambassador
Talip Abid Salih El Duleymi said. "We want them to use those relations
to dissuade the United States from its intention to attack."
- Iraq urged Turkey to reject U.S. requests for military
support in any attack on Baghdad.
- The United States is looking to Turkey for use of its
air bases and frontiers in the event of military action.
- Ankara opposes war but may be hard pressed to deny help
to its closest NATO ally.
- The United States has asked NATO to consider several
measures to provide indirect military assistance in case of an invasion.
- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson Thursday denied
reports of a "bust-up" over providing support.
- Diplomats said France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg
had blocked a decision in NATO on whether to prepare supporting measures,
notably defending Turkey's southern flank. But Robertson said the only
disagreement was over timing.
- SEPT. 11 "A PICNIC IN COMPARISON"
- In Iraq, U.N. experts continued their hunt for banned
weapons as a local newspaper warned that U.S. troops faced a fate worse
than the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States if they attacked.
- "The events of September 11 will be a picnic compared
with what would happen to America if it commits aggression against Iraq,"
the Babel paper of President Saddam Hussein's son Uday said Thursday.
- It was referring to the suicide plane attacks in New
York and Washington which killed more than 3,000 people in 2001.
- The U.N. inspectors visited at least five sites Thursday,
including food stores, a fiberglass production plant, a missile complex
and a university.
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