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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 17:22 GMT
Nato studies new Iraq proposals
Flags flying outside Nato headquarters
Iraq policy has deeply divided the alliance
Nato countries are considering fresh proposals aimed at resolving the alliance's damaging dispute over Iraq.

Sixteen countries want to start military planning for the defence of Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq.

A US navy plane captain sits on the wing of an F/A-18 Hornet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln,
The US military build-up continues in the Gulf
But after a meeting of Nato ambassadors on Wednesday, France, Germany and Belgium are still blocking the plan - saying it could undermine efforts to find a diplomatic solution to avert war with Iraq.

However, Nato spokesman Yves Brodeur said the allies were still "involved in intense consultations" and the ambassadors are due to meet again later on Wednesday.

The Bush administration has warned that decision time is rapidly approaching for both Nato and the United Nations regarding Iraq.

On Friday, the UN's chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, are to present a crucial report on whether Iraq has been complying with disarmament demands.

Intense talks

The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says a new compromise plan presented by Nato Secretary General George Robertson involves deploying Patriot anti-missile batteries, Awacs surveillance planes, and chemical-biological protection units in Turkey.

US REQUEST FOR TURKEY
A US Patriot missile being launched
Patriot anti-missile batteries
Awacs surveillance planes
Chemical, biological protection units
After a night of intense negotiations, she says, the US appears to have dropped two other requests - the replacement of US troops in the Balkans with European soldiers, and increased security at US bases around Europe.

The US ambassador to Nato, Nicholas Burns, said the alliance was "obligated" to provide military support to Turkey.

However, France on Wednesday said it had not changed its position.

"We cannot through a Nato decision today give our unconditional support to armed intervention in Iraq and thereby prejudge decisions which are the responsibility of the Security Council," French foreign ministry spokesman Francois Rivasseau said.

As the diplomatic deadlock continues, so does the US military build-up in the Gulf.

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

Pentagon officials say there are now at least 130,000 US personnel within striking distance of Iraq, and they are ready to begin operations if necessary.

The Pentagon is still hoping to get the green light from Turkey to station at least one army division there to open a potential northern front, says the BBC's Nick Childs.

That is one reason Pentagon planners have been so angry about the row in Nato over defending Turkey.

In other developments:

  • Greece - which holds the presidency of the European Union - says the EU will be in "deep crisis" if member states fail to forge a common stance on Iraq

  • Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar describes relations with Germany as "very good" after two days of talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - but the two leaders remain at odds over Iraq

  • With a majority of 352-0, the Russian parliament passes a resolution opposing war in Iraq without a UN resolution to authorise it

  • President Putin ends a three-day visit to Paris, which has seen the Russian leader issuing a call, along with France and Germany, for increased weapons inspections in Iraq

  • Papal envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray prepares to meet President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad

  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who supports the US and UK position on Iraq, is to hold talks with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London

In London, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair outlined the "moral" case for war against Saddam Hussein, saying the alternative was a sanctions regime that could result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.

Mr Blair told Parliament that keeping the sanctions was also "a choice with bad and devastating consequences for the Iraqi people".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"It's one of the most serious disagreements in the history of Nato"

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12 Feb 03 | Media reports
12 Feb 03 | Politics
12 Feb 03 | Middle East
11 Feb 03 | Middle East
11 Feb 03 | Europe
10 Feb 03 | Europe
11 Feb 03 | Americas
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