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Labor coalition opposes war with Iraq

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney sent a letter to senators and representatives saying the labor union advocates a "broad international coalition" to disarm Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The executive council of the AFL-CIO passed a resolution Thursday opposing war with Iraq "at this time" and arguing against unilateral U.S. action.

The resolution says the United States has squandered much of the international goodwill and unity it received following September 11, 2001, and asserted that the best way to disarm Iraq is with a broad international coalition and with the support of the United Nations.

"There may be times when we must stand alone and act unilaterally in defense of our national security," the resolution said. "But the threat posed by Saddam Hussein deserves multilateral resolve, not unilateral action."

"The president has not fulfilled his responsibility to make a compelling and coherent explanation to the American people and the world as to the need for military action against Iraq at this time."

President Bush has said the United States is willing to pursue a war with Iraq even without a second United Nations resolution to specifically authorize a war. This week, Bush said "there's only one thing" Saddam Hussein can do to avoid war and that's "full disarmament."

The United States, Britain and Spain have proposed a United Nations resolution which declares that Iraq "has failed to take the final opportunity" to disarm.

On Thursday, U.N. Security Council held a closed door meeting to discuss the resolution and a competing memorandum from Russia, France and Germany.

The memorandum submitted at the same meeting as the draft resolution seeks to extend inspections and beef up inspectors' staff, equipment and surveillance capabilities. It says war "should only be a last resort."

The AFL-CIO executive council, which represents about 13 million union members, passed its resolution at the end of its winter meeting in Hollywood, Florida.

Bob Muehlenkamp, coordinator of the antiwar coalition U.S. Labor Against the War, called the resolution historic and said it was the first time "top leadership of the labor movement has opposed a U.S. president's war policy."

Muehlenkamp said the AFL-CIO's move would encourage union members to expand their antiwar efforts. Muehlenkamp's group has called for a "Labor Day for Peace" on March 12, with antiwar activities planned at work sites around the country.

The resolution notes that the AFL-CIO "has a particularly strong interest in the escalating conflict with Iraq" because those in the military are "the men and women of America's working families."

In October, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney sent an open letter to U.S. senators and representatives to say the labor union firmly supported Bush's war on terrorism but advocated a "broad international coalition" to disarm Iraq.

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