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Saturday, 31 August, 2002, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
EU demands action by Iraq
UN weapons inspectors
The EU wants the return of UN weapons inspectors
The European Union has called on Baghdad to allow United Nations weapons inspectors back into Iraq immediately.

Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said Europe supported the UN fully and urged the United States to continue broad consultations on the issue.

A great deal of this debate would be avoided if Saddam Hussein readmitted the weapons inspectors without conditions and without restrictions

Jack Straw
Mr Moeller, who has been hosting a meeting of foreign ministers in the Danish town of Elsinore, added that no decision had been taken about military action because no-one had as yet proposed a war.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has meanwhile warned Saddam Hussein that the world could not stand by while Iraq was in "flagrant breach" of UN resolutions.

"Doing nothing about Iraq's breach of these UN resolutions is not an option," he said.

"That's the only decision that's been taken so far. What we do about that is an open question."

Denmark is hosting two days of talks
The BBC's Oana Lungescu, reporting from Elsinore, says that even Britain - America's closest ally in Europe - appears worried by Washington's growing determination to confront Iraq with or without a UN resolution.

EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said everyone recognised the threat from Iraq, but that it would take cool heads to plot the right way forward.

EU diplomats are insisting that it is up to the UN Security Council to consider other measures if Iraq fails to allow back the inspectors.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC there was overwhelming support for their re-admission, adding that the threat of military action had to remain to ensure they could do their jobs properly.

Mr Straw said the British parliament would be consulted in the event of the cabinet deciding that military action was necessary, although he said it was unlikely to be recalled in the next few weeks.

French and German leaders have publicly opposed any unilateral US strike.

EC President Romano Prodi and host Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller
EU officials hope to accommodate US concerns on the ICC
Former US President Bill Clinton has also sounded a note of caution.

He said that a US attack on Iraq might give Saddam an excuse to use weapons of mass destruction against the US and its allies.

Mr Clinton said there was no question that the Iraqi president was violating UN resolutions and probably stockpiling chemical and biological weapons.

But he said that there should be plenty of public debate on the issue.

'Cooling the heat'

At their meeting, the EU ministers also discussed controversial US requests for bilateral deals that would circumvent the newly created ICC, in an attempt to lower the temperature in the dispute.

But Mr Moeller said the bottom line was that the ICC should not be undermined, adding that legal advisers had been charged with working out a common position.

The European Commission reacted angrily earlier this month to Washington's insistence on concluding bilateral deals that would exempt Americans from ICC prosecution, arguing that they would fatally undermine the newly created court.

There have been signs that Italy and Britain are prepared to sign such agreements, but diplomats from both countries said they were prepared to hold off until the EU had agreed a common position.

The BBC's David Chazan
"Washington's apparent determination to confront Iraq with or without the backing of the UN Security Council"
Former US secretary of state Laurence Eagleburger
"I find the whole issue lacking in logic"
See also:

31 Aug 02 | Politics
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
31 Aug 02 | Europe
30 Aug 02 | Business
30 Aug 02 | Media reports
30 Aug 02 | Middle East
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