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Sunday, 9 February, 2003, 16:37 GMT
Iraq disarmament plan gains support
UN inspectors in Iraq
The plan reportedly calls for more inspectors
Russia has said it will support a Franco-German plan aimed at averting war with Iraq.

The plan reportedly calls for the tripling of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, banning Iraqi flights anywhere over the country and deploying UN peacekeepers.

I have no doubt that Russia will adhere to it

Sergei Ivanov, Russian Defence Minister
German Defence Minister Peter Struck said the proposal would be presented to the United Nations Security Council on Friday - the same day the chief UN weapons inspectors present their second critical report on Iraqi co-operation.

The plan seems certain to deepen a growing rift between the United States and European countries over how to ensure Iraq disarms.

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

Russia and France both possess the power to veto a new resolution, reportedly being drafted by the UK, which would clear the way for military action against Iraq.

Russian backing

Mr Struck said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder would discuss the plan with the visiting Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Berlin on Sunday.

He said Germany "could well take part" in a UN peacekeeping force in Iraq reportedly envisaged by the plan.

The defence minister said he hoped the plan would be "taken up positively" by the Security Council next Friday.

Russia's Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, said on Sunday that if the plan was presented to the UN, "I have no doubt that Russia will adhere to it."

Belgium also said it was favourable to the Franco-German plan, according to the French news agency AFP.

The BBC's Ray Furlong, who is in Berlin, says Vladimir Putin is keen to avoid a war, but at the same time wants to avoid the kind of damaging rows that Germany has had with the United States over Iraq.

The Franco-German plan might fit the bill, he says.

US anger

News of the initiative has been greeted with anger by American officials, who said Washington had not been consulted.

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister
Fischer said he was not convinced by the US

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell made a point of saying he had learned about it through press reports.

But the administration's real concern is with the substance of the plan - to focus on inspections was to miss the point, said Mr Powell.

He said Saddam Hussein was simply not complying with the UN's demands and no amount of time and no increase in the number of inspectors was likely to change that.

Mr Powell warned that if the UN did not face up to its responsibilities, America was still prepared to take military action.

Differences over how to deal with Iraq have soured relations between Germany and France and the US, which insists diplomatic attempts to disarm Iraq have failed.

On Saturday, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that if the international community showed a lack of resolve, "there is no chance [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily or flee - and thus little chance of a peaceful outcome".

But German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Mr Rumsfeld: "I can't go to the public and say 'let's go to war because there are reasons'. I don't believe in them."

New voice

The Munich meeting also heard from Iran's deputy minister for international and legal affairs, Gholamali Koshroo - the first time Tehran has been represented at the gathering.

Mr Koshroo urged Iraq to disarm, but stressed his country's opposition to a war.

He also emphasised the need to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus, who is in Munich, says the speech - delivered in English - was measured and moderate in tone, ending with a call for the Muslim world and the West to develop a broader view of each other.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Chazan
"France and Germany both believe there's still time for a peaceful solution"
The BBC's Tristana Moore in Munich
"Belgium may use its Nato veto against US proposals"
German SDP member of parliament Monica Griefahn
"I hope the US would be open to this idea"

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09 Feb 03 | Middle East
09 Feb 03 | Europe
08 Feb 03 | Europe
08 Feb 03 | Middle East
07 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Americas
28 Jan 03 | Americas
27 Jan 03 | Americas
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