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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 14:07 GMT
Rumsfeld faces sceptical Europeans
Anti-war poster in Munich
Germany is staunchly opposed to military action
The time to act against Iraq is fast approaching, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned, as he visits Europe to try to build support for a possible US-led war.

International diplomacy, economic sanctions as well as limited military action have all failed to persuade Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to disarm, he said.

The patience of the world is nearing its end

Donald Rumsfeld,
US Defence Secretary
Mr Rumsfeld was speaking in Italy - a strong advocate of the US position - before travelling to Germany, which has staunchly opposed the use of force to disarm Iraq.

The US is also facing continued resistance to military action from Russia and France - both with a veto on the UN Security Council.

Mr Rumsfeld's trip comes amid growing preparations for war, with a diplomatic solution to the crisis appearing more remote.

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

Speaking to reporters in Rome after talks with Italian leaders, Mr Rumsfeld said momentum is building for action against Iraq.

"The patience of the world is nearing its end," he said.

Mr Rumsfeld is due to speak at a security conference in Munich, Germany, on Saturday.

A large security operation is under way in Munich, where large protests against military action are expected.

Strained relations

Tension between Washington and Berlin heightened after Mr Rumsfeld expressed doubts about Germany's co-operation over Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld (left) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (right)
Warm welcome in Italy but other European ties have been strained

On Wednesday, he told the US House Armed Services Committee: "There are three or four countries that have said they won't do anything. I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are the ones that I have indicated won't help in any respect."

The traditionally close relationship between Germany and the US since World War II has come under strain because of differences over Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld recently referred to France and Germany as "old Europe" after both countries declared their opposition to military action against Iraq without explicit authorisation by the United Nations.

The row deepened a rift created during last year's German elections, when politicians made comments unfavourable to US President Bush.

Remarks downplayed

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer dismissed Mr Rumsfeld's latest slight, saying the defence secretary did not speak for the United States.

"I spent several hours with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and I did not have the impression that this [Rumsfeld's comments] represented the attitude of the American Government," he said as he returned from the latest UN meeting on Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld will meet the German and Russian defence ministers on the sidelines of the Munich conference.

There are no plans for a meeting with the French defence chief who is also scheduled to attend.

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07 Feb 03 | Media reports
05 Feb 03 | Europe
23 Jan 03 | Europe
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