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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 14:35 GMT
Europe and Iraq: Who stands where?
Saddam Hussein
Europe is split down the middle on Iraq. As the UK leads a group of countries broadly supportive of military action, Russia, France and Germany are heading an anti-war bloc. "New Europe" - the former Soviet bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe - are mostly lining up behind the Americans. BBC News Online explains where key European countries stand.

Broadly or fully pro-war countries

  • UK: The most pro-US European nation. The UK is fully committed to military action - if necessary, without a further UN resolution. Thousands of British troops have already been despatched to the region, although PM Tony Blair continues to stress that war is not inevitable. The UK might back extra time for the inspectors, but only a matter of weeks.

  • Spain: Spain has been backing the hardline US position and would support a Washington-led conflict even without a further UN resolution. It says Iraq has respected none of the conditions set by the Security Council, and that Baghdad "beats the world record for human rights violations." Spanish FM Ana Palacio has also said the situation is Iraq is "inextricably linked" to the problem of terrorism. Spain has a vote on the UN Security Council, but could not veto a war even if it wanted to.

  • Italy: Silvio Berlusconi, strongly pro-US in his general outlook, says UN officials must be given time to finish their job. But he is expected to support the US in the event of a military campaign, even without further UN resolutions. Mr Berlusconi is keen for EU and US to reach unity, warning it would be a "calamity" if there was a damaging split. Italy also suggests an Italian-Spanish-British axis to rival the Franco-German axis.

  • Denmark: The Danish Government would support a war sanctioned by a fresh UN resolution, but has also strongly suggested that it would back a US-initiated conflict. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says existing UN resolutions give the green light for war, if Iraq does not fall in line with the call for disarmament.

  • Netherlands: The Dutch are seen as being fairly close to the US-British position, although the country has been distracted by a general election. The Christian Democrats of Jan Peter Balkenende have retained their role as the biggest Dutch party and are expected to line up behind the US and UK.

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

    Broadly or fully anti-war countries

  • Germany: The Germans, governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, are strongly against military intervention. Germany has said it will not vote for war in the UN Security Council, although it does not have the power of veto. Its lack of support is seen as a major disappointment to Washington, a traditionally close ally. Public opinion is strongly anti-war, a factor which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder tapped into as he narrowly won re-election in September.

  • France: France, with Germany, is heading the EU's anti-war contingent. France has the power of veto on the UN Security Council. But despite pledging with Germany that he will not back a war, President Jacques Chirac has not explicitly said that he would veto one either. Both countries might abstain if it came to a vote. In the meantime, France wants more time for UN inspectors to complete their work, possibly several months longer.

  • Russia: Russia is strongly in favour of continuing to pursue diplomatic channels. It says there is no evidence that would justify a war. It is also vehement that the UN Security Council, not the US, must have supremacy. However, President Vladimir Putin has warned Baghdad that Russia, its old ally, could turn against it if Iraq "starts to present problems for inspectors". Russia has the power of veto on the UN Security Council.

  • Greece: Greece currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, and is very keen to steer the EU away from backing a war. The Greeks also have the unenviable task of trying to weld the divided Europe into something approaching a unified force on the issue. They have managed to produce a statement agreed by all 15 foreign ministers, urging Iraq to comply "without delay" with weapons inspections, and hinting at the need for the inspectors to be given more time to complete their work.

    'New Europe'

  • Czech Republic: The Czechs are the only nation of the "new Europe" to commit troops to the Gulf. The Czech army specialises in combating chemical weapons: it has had one unit of anti-chemical troops in Kuwait since last March, and another unit is likely to join them. The US has also asked permission for coalition forces to pass through Czech territory and airspace. Parliament will have the final say, but the Czech Republic gave similar assistance during the first Gulf War in 1991, and is unlikely to raise objections this time.

  • Poland: Poland has not yet committed any troops, but it is possibly Washington's most enthusiastic cheerleader in Central Europe. The foreign minister has repeatedly pledged Poland's support for a war in the Gulf, with or without UN approval. Poland is still somewhat mistrustful of the European powers. Although Germany helped Poland get into the EU, the Poles still look to America for real military muscle, at least until some plausible European defence structure emerges.

  • Hungary: Hungary is allowing the US to use the Taszar airbase in the south of the country to train up to 3,000 Iraqi dissidents as interpreters, administrators and guides. The Hungarians insist that Taszar cannot be used for combat training, although the Iraqis will be trained to use small arms for self-defence purposes. In the past, Taszar has been used as a logistics base for Nato operations in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo.

  • Bulgaria: As it prepares to join Nato next year, Bulgaria is anxious to prove its credentials as an American ally. Bulgaria has been holding talks with the US about using its airbases, and is making contingency plans to accept up to 10,000 refugees from Iraq. Bulgaria is on the UN Security Council, although without the power of veto. It would like to see a peaceful resolution to the crisis, but could probably be persuaded to back a war without a second UN resolution.

  • Slovakia: As a Nato member-in-waiting, Slovakia has been formally asked by the US to take part in a multinational coalition in the event of war. But agreeing to help could put pressure on Slovakia's Nato aspirations, possibly boosting a "no" vote in a membership referendum later this year. Public opinion is already finely balanced, and a war in Iraq could tip it into opposition. The same is true for Slovenia, where a Nato referendum is due on 23 March - although no request for military help has been made.

    Other EU countries seen as opposed to war are:

  • Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg.

    EU countries which have not come out firmly on one side or the other are:

  • Ireland, Portugal, Sweden and Finland.

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    See also:

    27 Jan 03 | Americas
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    24 Jan 03 | Middle East
    22 Jan 03 | Country profiles
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