European Union leaders have concluded an emergency summit on Iraq, saying force should only be used as a "last resort".
But the statement from the 15 leaders, who have been bitterly divided on the issue, warned that weapons inspections could not continue indefinitely without Baghdad's co-operation.
The gulf between the leaders was underlined when President Jacques Chirac said France would oppose any early move towards military action.
What next in the diplomatic rift over the Iraq crisis? Will the EU suffer long-term damage over this row?
This debate has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I want to PROTEST against Jaques Chirac's blackmail and attack against my country's position on Iraq. Because we support UK/US position, now France is using the politic of the bigger and stronger ( of which they accuse USA)..and menace my and other candidate countries on blocking the EU enlargement. Shame on you, Chirac! Shame on you France!
Adrian, Bucharest, Romania
Three nations of the EU are standing and saying "no" to war. Has this ever happened in the past? I believe a new ideology is emerging which brings peace, prosperity, maturity and harmony among nations.
New Delhi, India
The rift between the EU nations is not on Iraq but on the USA. The question that divides them is whether the USA is still their traditional democratic ally in a hostile world, or an uncontrolled hyper power with imperial ambitions which have to be resisted. As the current US administration appears to be deeply divided itself on this issue, the answer cannot be given before another president enters office.
The demise of the EU comes when Chirac tells the EU candidates "They missed a great opportunity to shut up" on their stance on Iraq and that their views could affect their membership chances. This coupled with pushing away poorer European countries and Turkey tells me that the EU is an exclusive boys club and not one to unify European countries. Chirac missed his opportunity to shut up!
The EU is an exclusive boys club and not one to unify European countries
Without US influence, there would be no rift amongst EU governments. Only those governments with the courage to say "no" to the US represent the will of the people. When Europeans realize that this rift has been caused by US pressure, and ensure that it doesn't happen again, there will be no lasting damage.
Ulrich Buescher, Melbourne, Australia
In my opinion, much of the arrogance and selfishness showed by the US is due to Europe's scarce pragmatism and lack of plans for the future. The latest developments on Iraq show there is a long way before EU becomes a homogeneous confederation. It is time that the privileged nations holding a seat within the UN definitely decide who has the right of having a seat. France and UK should unite their seat and attribute it permanently to the EU, whereas other larger and more populated countries should be entitled to hold a seat permanently, e.g. India, Indonesia, Mexico.
Perhaps the European politicians are divided. Maybe the political structure of EU has been damaged. But the people of Europe are now more united than ever. One of the traditional mistakes of EU institutions is to be to be far from citizen's opinion. It is time to do what people want to be done.
Sergio, Alicante, Spain
Who gave Mr Chirac the right to threaten countries to keep their mouths shut? If that is 'common EU foreign policy' in the making, I think the project is already dead in the water.
Alex Robinson, Budapest Hungary
Many countries supporting the US stand on Iraq are not doing it because they think there is a moral case for war or on basis of the majority opinion in their countries. It is just because they do no want to annoy the "the only superpower" the US on which their security stands. For the EU to be credible, it must not follow blindly whatever policy comes from the US. It must first reflect the opinions of their citizens. That why I say bravo to the French, Germans and Belgians.
For the EU to be credible, it must not follow blindly whatever policy comes from the US
Paul Batte, Kampala, Uganda
Paul Batte, Kampala, Uganda
Europe won't develop a long term rift, when it comes down to it. The EU is far more important to all aspects of European life, much more so than the far away lands of the US. Europeans know that it's just the politicians that are causing the problems.
I'd rather see the answer to question: "will the USA suffer any long-term damage for its stance on Iraq". To that the question definitely is "yes". What will then consequently be the result for the EU, should be the order of discussion.
Bart van Halteren, Colombo, Sri Lanka
The American government has done a remarkable job of unifying the world - against them. The rift is more between the people, and those that think that they have a right to submit humanity to their paranoia.
It will take a lot more than a simple disagreement amongst politicians (not the public, because they are united - e.g. the overwhelming public outcry last weekend in demonstrations across Europe) to do serious damage to the EU. However, I am somewhat disgruntled with the "new" European countries, in that they chose to support the US before the current members of the EU even had an opportunity to discuss that matter amongst themselves and try to find common ground. This action, if any, has damaged the EU, but not beyond repair.
Peter, Munich, Germany - originally Athens, Greece
I think that any country which wants to join the EU should agree to support the EU during disputes with other external countries, for the sake of unity. Those who think it more important to back America, hoping for more aid in dollars, should join NAFTA.
Those who think it more important to back America, hoping for more aid in dollars, should join NAFTA
J M, London, UK
The US has a long tradition of actually trying to stay out of EU politics-the neutrality act of 1939 being a prime example. After WW2 it was left to the US and the UK to stand up to communism which they did--and by taking a strong stand, eventually won the cold war.
Now that that threat is over France wants to take centre stage again. I can't speak for the rest of Americans but as for me, if EU doesn't mind, I think the US would just as soon let someone else have the mantle of watchdog on freedom. If France is up to the task, then more power to her.
It shows the confidence of the 7 EU applicants in Western Europe's commitment to their defence when they will risk French and German admonishment for resolutely supporting the US over Iraq. The EU has been consistent only in its willingness to bury tough issues and decisions in meaningless rhetoric. This is what separates the US from Europe- a willingness to act. The new democracies of Eastern Europe know who their real friends would be in the event of trouble.
Gerry, New York, NY USA (ex-UK)
The latest difficulties only prove that continuing the current community of nations approach is not working. Unless the EU can federalise itself and therefore create a single unified voice on the world state the EU will continue to be a diplomatic joke. We must support the EU to curb the unilateralist tendencies of Britain, France and Germany to pay lip service to European unity whilst running off and doing their own thing at the same time. The EU is doomed to failure if the larger states persistently put their own interests first.
The EU is doomed to failure if the larger states persistently put their own interests first
Brian Murphy, Dublin, Ireland
Brian Murphy, Dublin, Ireland
Of course the EU has been damaged. France and Germany effectively pulled the teeth from any present or future UN resolution and weakened the EU in the process. What country is going to listen to the UN, or the EU, if it will not even back up its own resolutions. The French arguments constitute, in effect, a notice to Saddam Hussein that, as long as he keeps making trivial gestures and meaningless decrees (preferably on the eve of Security Council sessions), he can - at least as far as the United Nations is concerned - sleep soundly at night and get away with whatever he can manage. Bravo France. You've caused significant damaged to two international bodies in just three months.
I would like to see the EU countries acknowledge the hypocrisy of the USA as regards the "credibility of the United Nations". It is the USA that has through its actions done most damage to the UN credibility, and now it is trying to use the credibility factor as an argument for an unprovoked attack against a sovereign state.
Klaus, Tampere, Finland
Has anyone heard the word "Euro" mentioned in the past few weeks. Didn't think so. Just goes to show what a ridiculous idea a unified Europe really is and a potentially dangerous one at that.
To George, UK:
Pleased to inform you that I am hearing the word "Euro" every day - when I do my shopping.
Ronald Vopel, Brussels, Belgium
I hope that at the end of the day the EU will adopt the Franco-German stance which really reflects that of the overwhelming majority of the Europeans and of the entire world. I think that the key objector is the UK and if it alters its stand, that would shift the EU countries to a settlement closer to peace than war.
George Nasser, Bethlehem, Palestine
Within Nato France, Germany and Belgium, seriously let their ally Turkey down. I feel that they cannot be trusted to do anything that is not in their own interest and are quite capable of breaking their word. Furthermore the EU is politically split. It should remain just a trading bloc. Saddam has managed to cause lasting damage to Nato, the EU, and the UN.
There's no rift among the people of Europe - they're overwhelmingly against this war. The only split is between the politicians who represent the mood of their people and the ones (like Blair) who jump when Washington tells them to.
JW, Coventry, UK
Let the true Europeans stand firm together, and resolve to finally stand up to the US and its imperialistic ambitions. Britain and Spain are disloyal to the European ideal, they should be hounded out.
Britain and Spain are disloyal to the European ideal
Samuel, Murcia, Spain
I totally agree with the views expressed by France, Germany and Belgium. I strongly believe that war is not an option. I hope the Greek presidency of the EU will stop pretending it supports the US and it will line up with our traditional allies France and Germany.
Stayros, Athens, Greece
To Stayros: I hope that all the EU lines up with France and Germany. We are sick and tired of paying your defence bills with our blood and financial sacrifice. I am 53 years of age and do not take any more than two weeks vacation per year for my entire career - now we will get more spent on our own social welfare. If and when your cities are devastated, I will not have my family respond.
Edward, Glastonbury, USA
What rift? All I can see is a handful of politicians in favour of a war standing against the overwhelming majority of Europeans (led by another handful of politicians) against it. If this was not reflected in the outcome of the argument, we should not call ourselves a democracy.
I do not believe that the EU can survive a split of this magnitude. It shows the deep divisions amongst its members. It also shows us, that if individual nations want their own policies then the EU is not for them, how on earth is a coordinated defence policy going to work based on this evidence? Britain should pull out of Europe if we want autonomy.
L Smith, UK
Long-term damage? It seemed to me that the ordinary people of many European nations - as well as countries outside the EU - showed remarkable harmony at the weekend. If politicians who consider themselves above those that voted them into power (and sadly some over-obedient members of the media) would stand up from their craven positions, they might see that there is more harmony now among the people of Europe than for a very long time.
There is more harmony now among the people of Europe than for a very long time
Richard Haut, Nice, France
Richard Haut, Nice, France
I think the EU may suffer long term damage. The Franco-Prussian bloc has been resurrected from the ashes and its continental ambitions for European dominance, once thought to be dead, are now laid bare for all to see. If this does not send shock waves of doubt through some of the "less influential" countries of Europe then they will probably be consigned to the fates they suffered in the 19th and 20th centuries - once again, at the hands of the French and Germans.
Mike Hughes, Houston, USA
The only reason there is a rift is because the Americans throw a tantrum if anyone disagrees with them. To their credit, France refuses to be bullied into changing their mind to conform with American wishes. When the Americans realise that maybe the French have a point, the differences can be overcome.
Neil, Dublin, Ireland
Does anybody really think that 15 nations can ever think alike and act alike - only deluded politicians!
J Carpenter, London UK
It is apparent that France and Germany think themselves more equal than others when it comes to the rest of the EU. Although it hasn't received much coverage, this is an issue that will continue to haunt the EU.
France and Germany think themselves more equal than others when it comes to the rest of the EU
I believe the question of healing the "rift" is an exaggeration of the current "crisis". In all politics, but especially democratic politics, there are conflicts between people, parties, countries etc, because different sides hold different opinions. In the case of Western democracy, however, it is a normal situation that is resolved, or bypassed, without a coupe or revolution. Give it time, and these things will settle themselves, especially after another "crisis" causes the various political groups to split along different lines related to that issue.
It's the Americans that caused this "rift". None of the current EU countries could be said to be responsible. Therefore we should be blaming them and not the EU for any disagreements that might or might not exist.
William van Zwanenberg, London, England
The two items on the agenda will be a poignant reminder to all those optimists who believe the EU is a vital force on the international stage. Iraq reveals how divided Europe, old and new, really is. Israel-Palestine reveals how impotent the EU really is. There are enough international bodies that are both impotent and divided.
Iraq reveals how divided Europe, old and new, really is
Ariel Kahana, Starnberg, Germany
Ariel Kahana, Starnberg, Germany
Yes, there will be permanent damages. This Iraq issue shows all of us that we are far away from a common foreign affairs and security policy. As long as Nato exists we will never achieve it. That much is clear now. As for the emergency meeting, it will result in a declaration. It will request more cooperation by Iraq and that the USA goes through the Security Council. But in the end every country will follow its own policy, just like they do now.
You ask, "Will the EU suffer long-term damage over this row?" Based on the continued self interest of member states, always to the exclusion of others, I rather hope the answer is yes. Then the EU can be dismantled and put down to experience.
The EU will not suffer long term from this disagreement, surely it is better to have countries saying no to bring debate into the equation. If we were a bunch of sycophants then the EU would be slurred for just being a lapdog to the US. War should never be taken lightly and I am happy that France, Germany and Belgium had the backbone to say 'hold on'. I think that this rift will make the EU stronger in the long term, by sending out the message that we are not a talking shop for the US. We can and we will stand on our own two feet if need be without the crutch of the US to support us.