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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 20:05 GMT
Nato fails to resolve Iraq dispute
Nato headquarters, Brussels
Nato's future could be irreparably damaged
Nato members have again failed to heal a deep split over when to start military preparations for a possible war against Iraq.

A formal meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels ended after just about 20 minutes, after being postponed twice.

George W Bush
Bush says he cannot understand the opposition
Nato spokesman Yves Brodeur said there had been no agreement and consultations would continue overnight.

The meeting is to resume on Wednesday morning.

The dispute was triggered when France, Germany and Belgium on Monday opposed Nato plans to begin shipping defensive equipment to Turkey - the only Nato member bordering Iraq.

US REQUEST FOR TURKEY
A US Patriot missile being launched
Patriot anti-missile batteries
Awacs surveillance planes
Chemical, biological protection units
In further evidence of opposition to Washington's Iraq policy, a senior German Government source has said that 11 out of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council support prolonging weapons inspections in Iraq.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin added his support in a telephone call to French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday.

On Monday, UN Security Council members Germany, France and Russia issued a declaration demanding increased inspections and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Iraq has given an initial negative reaction to the appeal for strengthened inspections of its weapons programmes as an alternative to military action.

In an interview with an Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, said he did not dispute the good faith of the French and Germans in putting forward their initiative, supported by Russia.

But he said Iraq could not accept the suggestion that UN soldiers be deployed to support the weapons inspections.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar, in Baghdad, says the Iraqi authorities will undoubtedly take comfort from the open divisions within Nato, but they are being careful not to gloat.

In other developments:

  • UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw rejects calls for more weapons inspections in Iraq, arguing that "even a 1,000-fold increase" in inspectors would achieve nothing

  • Greece confirms EU emergency summit on Iraq will go ahead next Monday

  • UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is to meet informally with all Security Council members to discuss UN preparations for any humanitarian emergency in the event of war

  • German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday holds talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a strong supporter of the American position on Iraq

  • Amnesty International urges the UN Security Council to face up to the human cost of any conflict in Iraq

Washington responded with anger to the decision to hold up help for Turkey, warning it is impatient for a resolution.

"I don't understand that decision. It affects the alliance in a negative way," said US President George Bush.

Time needed

The three countries opposing the move argue that sending Nato military equipment to Turkey would imply that diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq and avert war had already failed.

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

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said the US and the other allies will proceed with planning "outside of Nato if necessary".

However, Nato's future as a collective body could be irreparably damaged if it cannot agree to start the military planning process, the BBC's Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish
"Some members are preparing to put action before consensus"
Nato Spokesman Yves Brodeur
"We are not yet in a position where we can arrive at a conclusion"

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11 Feb 03 | Americas
11 Feb 03 | Business
11 Feb 03 | Politics
10 Feb 03 | Europe
11 Feb 03 | Europe
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