BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 00:10 GMT
US seeks Nato help on Iraq
Turkish tank near Iraq border
Turkish troops are exercising near the Iraq border
The United States has formally asked for help from its allies in Nato in the event of a war against Iraq.

The president has made no decision to use force

Donald Rumsfeld
US Defense Secretary
A Nato official said the alliance - which includes Iraq's neighbour Turkey - had received proposals for possible roles in any conflict against Baghdad, which the US insists possesses weapons of mass destruction.

But Russia, which does not belong to Nato but does sit on the United Nations Security Council, has warned against an early war, and has sent a senior envoy to Baghdad to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The Red Crescent aid organisation has already begun preparations in northern Turkey for an expected wave of refugees who would flee if war began.

Suggested roles

The US proposal is reported to follow on from informal discussions with US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz last month.

Among the suggestions put forward then for possible Nato participation were:

  • protecting Turkey from the threat of counter-attack from the Iraqis
  • using Nato's planning facilities to co-ordinate areas such as transport
  • using collective forces such as AWACS surveillance planes, minesweepers or naval patrol ships
  • providing peacekeeping forces and helping rebuild a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

Nato considers an armed attack against a member as an attack against all members, but it is unclear whether it will feel obliged to help the US attack a non-member, Iraq.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the request to Nato did not mean that a strike against Baghdad was imminent.

"The president has made no decision to use force, but it does take time to plan, and just as we're planning with individual countries it seemed appropriate, to the extent Nato wished to, to begin that planning process," he told a news briefing in Washington.

'Dangerous consequences'

Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, told the visiting head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, that unilateral military action against Baghdad would have dangerous consequences for world peace.

Mr ElBaradei said Russia could help avert a war but urged Iraq to "shift gear from passive co-operation to active co-operation".

16 Jan - Chief UN inspector Hans Blix briefs EU
19 Jan - Blix meets top Iraqi officials in Baghdad
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
29 Jan - UN discusses report
Mid-Feb - Estimated 150,000 US troops in Gulf
15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
End of March - Blix submits "key remaining disarmament tasks"
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is due to submit his first report to the Security Council on 27 January - a deadline which could be a possible trigger for a US-led war.

His report is to be considered by governments, before the council reconvenes in closed session two days later for a fuller discussion.

BBC News Online's world affairs correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says this might be the key meeting at which positions become clear.

Britain, our correspondent says, might ask the Security Council to give the inspectors more time if nothing significant has changed before then.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is going to Washington for a meeting on Thursday 23 January with the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected in the United States to see President George W Bush following the Security Council meetings.

Russian interests

Russia insists that any attack on Iraq must have the backing of the Security Council.

Its high-level delegation to Baghdad is led by a deputy foreign minister, Alexander Saltanov.

Speaking on his arrival, Mr Saltanov said Moscow wanted to find a diplomatic and political solution to the crisis and prevent a war.

The Russian envoy is being accompanied by the country's deputy energy minister, Ivan Matlashov, and representatives of the Russian oil giant, Lukoil.

Analysts say the mission has two aims: firstly to ensure a higher profile for Russian diplomacy, and secondly to secure the country's interests in Iraq.

Russia fears war could hinder its efforts to recover several billion dollars in debt from Baghdad, and jeopardise big oil contracts won by its firms.

  The BBC's Nick Childs
"The diplomacy is taking on an air of increasing urgency"
  US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld
"The president has made no decision to use force but it does take time to plan"

Key stories





See also:

15 Jan 03 | Middle East
15 Jan 03 | Politics
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
14 Jan 03 | Americas
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |