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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 14:39 GMT
Bush speech: Foreign reaction
People watch Bush speech in Hong Kong
Few have wholeheartedly welcomed Bush's speech
President Bush's promise to produce proof of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction has been cautiously welcomed by other key members of the United Nations Security Council.

France and Russia both said they would consider evidence supplied by the United States carefully.

Iraq has not been playing the game... and the Security Council has got to do its job

John Howard
Australian prime minister
There were words of warning from other states about the State of the Union speech, in which Mr Bush made clear America was ready to act unilaterally if necessary.

Iraq itself rejected Mr Bush's allegations of links to Islamic militant groups.

"Everybody in the region and in the world knows Iraq has no connection with al-Qaeda," Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said.

Meanwhile, a government spokesman in America's close ally Britain "endorsed wholeheartedly" Mr Bush's message on Iraq.

'Show us the proof'

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said he welcomed Mr Bush's pledge to produce evidence at the meeting of the Security Council scheduled for 5 February.

"For several weeks now we have been asking all of those who have particular information... to give this information to the [UN weapons] inspectors," he said.

But, in a reference to his country's long-standing opposition to unilateral military action by the US, he added that "the majority of the world community not only understands this position but shares it".

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also called on the US to give its evidence to the weapons inspectors, but warned against countries acting alone:

"You can only succeed in the fight against international terrorism by strengthening the anti-terrorist coalition."

There was no immediate reaction to Mr Bush's speech from China, which along with America, Russia and France and the UK has a permanent seat on the Security Council and therefore the power of veto.

Kuwaiti support

Kuwait, a key ally for the US in the event of war, appeared to endorse many points in President Bush's speech.

Defence Minister Sheikh Jabir Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah said the US leader was right to say that Saddam Hussein was not to be trusted.

"Kuwait has said more than once that we prefer that the decision is international," he added, but "if it isn't, the political leadership will have to consider where our interest lies."

In the breakaway Kurdish region of northern Iraq, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Latif Rashid, predicted after the US president's speech that war would begin "in a matter of weeks, not months".

In the Gaza Strip, the spiritual leader of the Hamas group, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, accused America of being guided by Israel.

"The battle America is undertaking is designed to allow Israel to remain in the Palestinian homeland," he told Reuters news agency.

Other reaction:

  • Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany, which on 1 February assumes the presidency of the Security Council, welcomed the pledge of new evidence but warned that any decision on military action should "remain within the Security Council".

  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard said: "Iraq has been thumbing its nose at the rest of the world and the Security Council has got to do its job."

  • New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said that most nations would be reluctant to back US-led action until the UN weapons inspectors had come to a definitive conclusion about Iraq.

  • Sweden's Prime Minister Goeran Persson said the speech showed the president was serious about having "the international community behind him".

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Not just George W Bush now making the case for war"

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29 Jan 03 | Americas
29 Jan 03 | Business
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