Europe's leading anti-war nations have lashed out against the decision by the US and UK to invade Iraq unless Saddam Hussein quits.
Opponents of war say it is not legal or necessary
France, Germany and Russia - the countries which fought hardest to extend weapons inspections - angrily accused the US of going to war without necessity or legitimacy.
The Vatican voiced similar sentiments, warning that those who went to war would assume heavy responsibility before God and history.
The chorus of condemnation came as UK Prime Minister Tony Blair battled a looming parliamentary rebellion because of his support for war.
France, publicly blamed by the US and UK for bringing down a second UN resolution, said the pro-war alliance jeopardised future attempts to disarm a country peacefully.
"This is a serious decision because the disarmament of Iraq is taking place and the inspections have showed that this is a credible way of disarming a country," Mr Chirac said on Tuesday.
"To act without the legitimacy of the United Nations, to favour the use of force over law, is taking a serious responsibility.
"Iraq does not represent today an immediate threat that
would justify an immediate war."
Later on Tuesday, Paris' US ambassador, Jean-David Levitte, said France would join US-led action if Iraq used biological and chemical weapons.
Does the scale of the threat from the Iraqi
dictator justify the launch of a war that will certainly
bring death to thousands?... No
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
"If Saddam Hussein uses chemical or biological weapons it would change totally the situation for President Chirac and the French Government," Mr Levitte said on CNN.
"President Chirac will have to decide what we could do to help the American troops, but I confirm it would change completely our
perception of the situation."
In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made a television statement, saying there was no reason to break off the disarmament process.
(War) would be a mistake with the most serious consequences
Russian President Vladimir Putin
"My question has been and remains: does the scale of the threat from the Iraqi dictator justify the launch of a war that will certainly bring death to thousands of innocent men, women and children? My answer in this case has been and remains: No," he said.
"The disarmament steps that the UN Security
Council has demanded are being increasingly fulfilled.
Those who decide that all peaceful means are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls
"I am deeply moved by the
fact that I know my attitude is shared by the overwhelming
majority of our people, and also by the majority of the UN
Security Council and the world's peoples."
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has called the war a "mistake with the most serious consequences", spoke to US President George W Bush on Tuesday, stressing the importance of their relationship, but expressing concern.
"Mr Putin expressed regret in connection with Washington's decision on an ultimatum and also in connection with the failure of diplomatic efforts to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise," a Kremlin statement said.
In other developments:
The Vatican, which has consistently urged a peaceful solution, warned that those who went to war were assuming great responsibility.
- A Russian parliamentary vote on ratifying a US-Russia nuclear arms treaty was delayed over the Iraq crisis, said the deputy chairman of the Duma foreign affairs committee, Sergei Shishkaryov
Portugal's government was facing a censure motion for hosting the US-UK-Spain "council of war" on the Azores, with PM Jose Manuel Durao Barroso described by the main opposition leader as "an accomplice of a very grave violation of international law"
Denmark said it would send a submarine and a corvette to join the military campaign
Belgium's Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, said US military equipment could still cross Belgian territory, reversing a weekend ruling by Defence Minister Andre Flahaut
- Spain, a key ally of the US and UK, announced it would not send any combat troops to help the war but 900 support personnel and a hospital ship capable of treating victims of chemical or biological weapons will be deployed
"Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
In the UK, the crisis continued to prompt members of Tony Blair's government to resign.
Two junior ministers followed former foreign secretary Robin Cook in standing down, but International Development Secretary Clare Short announced she would stay.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pulled out of an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels in order to attend the debate, sending Europe Minister Dennis MacShane to replace him.