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Wednesday, 20 November, 2002, 18:25 GMT
US seeks coalition for Iraq war
US tanks on exercise in Kuwait
The US is continuing its own military build-up
The United States is asking for military support from dozens of countries as it prepares for conflict in Iraq.

We call an end to that game of deception, deceit and denial

US President George W Bush
Britain and Canada are among traditional allies who have already agreed to the request for troops and equipment if the United Nations sanctions action.

US President George W Bush urged his Nato colleagues in Europe to join a "coalition of the willing" to go to war in Iraq if it defied a UN resolution to rid itself of any weapons of mass destruction.

But the UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix - who has held talks in Baghdad under the terms of that resolution - said he was confident that war against Iraq can "still be averted".

British special forces

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the British parliament that the US had asked for help from 60 countries.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing MPs
British leader Tony Blair has been Mr Bush's staunchest ally
"If there was to be a breach of the UN resolution and we were to go to military conflict in circumstances that we thought were justified, we would be part of any coalition to make sure that the will of the UN is upheld," he said.

BBC News Online's Paul Reynolds says the US is interested in specialised British units as well as an armoured formation.

He says they could include minesweepers - four of which are already on their way to the Gulf - air-to-air refuelling, special forces and an air assault brigade.

Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he would consider military backing if the campaign was supported by the UN Security Council.

"We'll see what we've got, we'll see what they need," he said.

World 'uniting'

President Bush said he still hoped Saddam Hussein would adhere to the demands of the UN Security Council, but preparations would continue for the alternative.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix says preliminary talks were constructive
"The world is uniting to answer the unique and urgent threat posed by Iraq," he said.

"We call an end to that game of deception, deceit and denial."

Correspondents say the US believes it is merely a matter of time before Iraq blocks the work of the weapons inspectors or otherwise breaches the UN resolution.

They say the Pentagon has been working towards a self-imposed December deadline to be ready to fight early in 2003.

The appeals for coalition partners - delivered through US ambassadors - are another stage of that military preparation though correspondents say they are also being used to keep up the pressure on Iraq to co-operate.

Open in new window : Iraq spotlight
Click to see maps of Iraq's suspected weapons sites

In Europe, Czech President Vaclav Havel - hosting a Nato summit - said he believed the alliance should consider joining an Iraqi campaign.

Germany, however, has repeatedly objected to disarming Iraq by force and has said it would not join a war.

Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson said Iraq would be discussed on Thursday and he predicted complete support for the UN resolution, though not necessarily armed intervention.

Co-operation promised

Inspectors sent to Baghdad by the UN to begin a search for illegal biological, chemical and nuclear weapons have made good progress in initial meetings, Mr Blix said.

Key dates
8 Dec: Iraq must reveal all programmes, plants and materials which could be used for weapons production
27 Nov: Inspections expected to resume
26 Jan: First inspectors report to UN Security Council expected

He said they had been promised full co-operation by the Iraqi Government, but added that the verbal commitment "has to be translated on the ground".

Under the UN resolution - agreed unanimously by the Security Council earlier this month - Iraq must declare all its weapons stocks as well as the missiles or drones which could fire them by 8 December.

Separately, the disagreement continues over whether US and British planes patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq are covered by the new UN resolution which protects member states carrying out sanctioned operations.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he did not believe firing at patrolling planes would be considered as constituting Iraq breaking the resolution, but US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was not necessarily in touch with Security Council opinion.

The BBC's James Robbins
"George Bush is talking up the possibility of war"
UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix
"It was a very constructive visit"

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See also:

20 Nov 02 | Middle East
20 Nov 02 | Middle East
18 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
19 Sep 02 | Europe
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