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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 17:13 GMT
UK slates Franco-German moves
Germans march against war
Marchers urging German government not to back war
Franco-German calls for enhanced weapons inspections in Iraq would be a "recipe for procrastination and delay", the UK foreign secretary has said.

Jack Straw said sending in more weapons inspectors would achieve nothing unless Iraq changed its attitude - and would not be necessary if Saddam Hussein did fully cooperate.

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary
The next week or two are very serious deadlines for Saddam

Jack Straw
Talks at Nato later broke up without a resolution in the rift that flared up when France, Belgium and Germany blocked the deployment of missile batteries to defend Turkey against possible attack from Iraq.

Mr Straw said Nato leaders should remember they had pledged their full support to implementing United Nations resolutions against Iraq.

France, Germany and Russia all want the number of inspectors increased, while China on Tuesday also backed calls for inspectors to be given more time.

Cooperation demands

Referring to proposals "doing the rounds on the continent of Europe", Mr Straw said deploying UN peacekeeping forces or making all of Iraq into a no-fly zone was not feasible.

Reports of the peacekeepers' proposals have been denied in Paris and Berlin.

There should be a "positive response" if Unmovic - the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission - specifically asked for more resources, said Mr Straw.

Vladamir Putin and Jacques Chirac in Paris
The leaders of France and Russia put on a united front on Monday
However, he continued: "If Saddam bows to the United Nation's demands and cooperates promptly, what is the need for greater numbers of inspectors?

"But if he maintains his refusal to cooperate, how will higher numbers help?

"Lethal viruses can be produced in an area the size of the average living room.

"In the absence of Iraqi cooperation, even a 1,000-fold increase in the inspectors' capabilities will not allow us to establish with any degree of confidence that Iraq has been disarmed."

1930s parallel

Mr Straw warned the United Nations not to follow the "catastrophic precedent" of the League of Nations' failure to back up its words with action against aggressors in the 1930s.

There was an overwhelming case for a second UN security council, he argued.

The foreign secretary believes other nations will back such a move after Friday's crucial report from the UN weapons inspectors.

He later told BBC News: "The world community has to make the choice for him and enforce its will by military action."

Friday's inspectors' report would be followed by a period of intensive talks, he said.

"The next week or two are very serious deadlines for Saddam," he added.

'Security cornerstone'

Ambassadors to Nato continued with emergency talks about the splits in Brussels but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Despite the row, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told MPs Nato remained the cornerstone of British security policy.

In a statement forced by the Conservative opposition on the current split between North Atlantic alliance members, Mr Ingram insisted there "was no debate" about the alliance providing assistance to a fellow NATO member.

Bianca Jagger
Bianca Jagger renewed her criticism of Blair ahead of Saturday's rally
Earlier Tony Blair's official spokesman acknowledged the disagreements within NATO were serious but stressed only three of the 19 allies had a different view.

Shadow defence spokesman Bernard Jenkin criticised Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon for not making the statement himself.

Former Conservative defence minister Michael Portillo said he feared Nato had been "dealt a mortal blow".

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said he did not believe that Nato's future was under threat although he said he believed the spat had damaged the alliance.

An opinion poll published in the Times newspaper on Tuesday suggests much of the UK public still needs persuading on war.

Almost nine out of 10 of those questioned said inspectors should be given more time.

Preparations continue for Saturday's anti-war rally in London, with organisers predicting half-a-million protestors.

Celebrity campaigner Bianca Jagger on Tuesday said she could not understand to Tony Blair, who she said was a pro-European now backing a unilateralist American president.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Mr Straw said other countries would come round"
Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin
"The French initiative has been utterly destructive"

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See also:

11 Feb 03 | Europe
11 Feb 03 | Politics
10 Feb 03 | Politics
10 Feb 03 | Politics
15 Jan 03 | Politics
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