BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian

BBC News UK Edition
    You are in: World: Europe  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
From Our Own Correspondent
Letter From America
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 15:50 GMT
European nations split on Iraq
William Horsley

The mixed reponses in Europe to chief weapons inspector Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council suggest that the opposition of some of America's allies remains a big obstacle to US plans to use military force.

Dr Blix has set Iraq a stiff test: to come clean about its illegal weapons and disarm quickly, or face "serious consequences", in the words of Security Council Resolution 1441.

That resolution was passed unanimously. France voted for it and the EU as a whole endorsed it.

Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder
Can the Franco-German axis against war survive?
Yet France and Germany both responded to the Blix report by calling for the inspectors to be given plenty of time to continue their work.

Germany's Chancellor Schroeder claimed, on the German TV station RTL, that his opposition to legitimising war was gaining ground in Europe.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the inspectors should have "all the time they need".

His French counterpart Dominique de Villepin said there was no need to discuss military force now, since "we are now in the phase of cooperation" with Iraq.

France's voice is crucial as it has a veto right on the Security Council.

Hawks and doves

On the other hand UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said the Blix report had proved that Iraq was now "in material breach" of its obligations to the Security Council.

He addded that the "damning" evidence from the weapons inspectors' first 60 days' work had made war more likely.

Hans Blix
Dr Blix set Iraq a tough test in his report
At Monday's meeting of Europe Union foreign ministers the divide between Europe's hawks and doves was plain.

Germany, France and Greece argued against any talk of war. Britain, with backing from Spain and others, favoured a short extension of the weapons inspectors' work, with military force to follow unless Iraq showed a genuine change of heart.

At the end a joint EU statement was agreed which left out any of the anti-war rhetoric used by President Chirac of France and Chancellor Schroeder of Germany last week.

The statement said Iraq must provide the inspectors "without delay" complete information as called for by the international community.

Jack Straw hinted that this showed the EU was moving to a harder line. He said a French and German attempt to insert a reference to the need for "additional time" for the inspectors had failed for lack of support.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

So could the "Franco-German axis" against war crumble?

American leaders say they think many of their allies who are speaking out against war will change their tune when they see others doing so.

Eventually, the US hopes as many as 35 countries may participate in military action against Iraq.

Russia's President Putin has said that Russia may end its opposition to war if Saddam Hussein goes on tricking the weapons inspectors.

The damage to the Nato alliance of the current dispute may be greater than its leaders admit.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Putin has said Russia may end its opposition to war
Nato's Secretary General, Lord Robertson, claimed that the difference of opinion "relates only to timing", and is not an issue of substance.

But at Nato's Brussels headquarters last week France and Germany blocked a US request for military help from its partners to fill the gaps left by the massive US troop deployment around Iraq.

Tempers are still high after US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld blasted the French-German axis as "the voice of old Europe."

But the US and the UK will be seeking to repeat their diplomatic success last November, when they pulled off the surprise of a unanimous Security Council vote for a tough resolution on Iraq.

The test will be how loudly America's other allies speak up in the coming days in support of the US lead.

Key stories





See also:

29 Jan 03 | Europe
28 Jan 03 | Europe
27 Jan 03 | Europe
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |