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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 23:22 GMT
Nato crisis 'will not delay war'
Iraqi women visit the al-Kazimiyeh holy shrine in Baghdad on 10 February
Iraqis try to carry on with ordinary life
The United States defence secretary has said that a crisis in Nato will not delay possible military action in Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld was speaking after France and Belgium blocked Alliance plans to begin shipping defensive equipment to Turkey - the only Nato member bordering on Iraq.

He said that military preparations would go forward bilaterally if the Alliance could not agree a plan of action.

An emergency meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels failed to produce an agreement on Monday night. Discussions will continue on Tuesday morning, Nato's secretary general said.

Turkey demanded the meeting in response to France and Belgium's move, invoking a part of the alliance's founding treaty that had never been used before.

France and Belgium, along with Germany, argue that sending Nato military equipment to Turkey now would pre-empt intense diplomacy aimed at averting war.

Experts say it would take about 30 days to deploy the equipment, making time of the essence.

President Bush said he was "disappointed" with the French position.

"I think it affects the alliance in a negative way," said the president.

In other developments:

  • France, Germany and Russia adopt a joint declaration calling for more inspectors to be sent to Iraq
  • Baghdad agrees to allow U-2 surveillance planes to fly over Iraq, a key demand of the UN weapons inspectors - but Saddam Hussein later adds that the US and UK should stop bombing the country's northern and southern "no-fly zones" while surveillance flights take place
  • European Union president Greece proposes an EU summit on Iraq
  • The former chief of Iraq's biological weapons programme, Rahib Taha, tells the BBC that Iraq never intended to use the weapons developed in 1980s
  • A senior Vatican envoy is sent to Baghdad to help stave off war against Iraq
  • UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says British soldiers will have a key role in peacekeeping and rebuilding Iraq after any war

'Mistake'

Washington responded to the European veto in the strongest terms.

US REQUEST FOR TURKEY
A US Patriot missile being launched
Patriot anti-missile batteries
Awacs surveillance planes
Chemical, biological protection units
Describing the move as "a mistake", Mr Rumsfeld said: "I think it is unfortunate that they are in stark disagreement with the rest of their Nato allies."

But he added that the move did not mean the end of Nato.

"Everyone's not always going to agree on everything," he said.

The rift comes come in a crucial week in the Iraq crisis with the United Nations weapons inspectors due to deliver a key report to the Security Council on Iraqi compliance this Friday.

Their verdict could pave the way for US-led military action if it proves negative.

Heated argument

Nato Secretary General George Robertson admitted the deadlock had produced "a very heated argument inside Nato" but expressed confidence that a solution would be found.

Lord George Robertson, Nato secretary-general
I'm confident we'll reach agreement but I can't say when it will happen

George Robertson,
Nato Secretary General

"I'm confident we'll reach agreement but I can't say when it will happen."

Turkey on Monday invoked Article IV of Nato's founding treaty - which says that Nato members will consult "when in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened".

The BBC's correspondent in Washington, Jon Leyne, says that the debate is more about the symbolism of Nato involvement in military action against Iraq than about the defence of Turkey.

Joint declaration

In Paris, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French host Jacques Chirac announced that France, Germany and Russia had adopted a common declaration on Iraq, calling for increased inspections.

"We insist on the need to solve the problem diplomatically," Mr Putin said on the first day of a three-day visit to France.

Mr Chirac said he did not believe UN resolution 1441 - which demands that Iraq destroy banned weapons or face "serious consequences" - authorised the UN to send troops.

"Nothing today justifies a war. This region really does not need another war," Mr Chirac said.

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

Amid the diplomatic wrangling, the two chief United Nations inspectors have given a cautiously optimistic assessment of how Iraq is meeting its obligations to disarm.

The chief nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said they had made it clear on a weekend visit to Baghdad that "the Security Council is quite impatient to see quick progress".

"We have always aimed for more intrusive inspections," he said. "If a greater number of inspectors is needed, then we would welcome that."

But Hans Blix, the chief chemical and biological weapons inspector, said that Iraqi co-operation was the key to finding out whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

"The principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active co-operation of the Iraqi side as we have said many times," he told Reuters news agency.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"Nato is in deep disarray"
Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson
"We are not yet at the stage where we can reach consensus"
The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"The threat of war is dividing old friends"

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See also:

10 Feb 03 | Business
10 Feb 03 | Europe
10 Feb 03 | Middle East
09 Feb 03 | Middle East
10 Feb 03 | Europe
10 Feb 03 | Politics
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