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Fischer: War may boost terrorists

Fischer: "Will international terrorism be weakened or unintentionally strengthened through a military strike?"

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has warned that a war to disarm Iraq could strengthen the hand of "international terrorism" and cause Middle East turmoil that could also threaten Europe.

In a speech in Berlin, where he also called on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with U.N. arms inspectors, Fischer said Germany remained opposed to a war while the inspectors were making progress towards disarming Iraq.

"The central question is: 'Will international terrorism be weakened or unintentionally strengthened through a military strike?'," Fischer told a meeting of his Greens party in Berlin on Saturday.

He added: "And what does that mean for not only the stability of the region as well as our security? That's why I'm convinced that war is only the very last resort, and not the next resort.

"My fear is that we are going in the wrong direction.

"I fear that we will have an enormous problem with international terrorism and that's why I'm of the opinion that we need to continue working with non-military means."

Germany, which is on the U.N. Security Council but does not wield a veto, has been one of the leading opponents of a U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said Germany would not under any circumstances vote to support a U.N. war resolution.

Fischer said U.N. inspectors were working in Iraq more effectively than ever before and that there was no reason to interrupt those efforts with a military strike to force Baghdad to disarm as the Security Council has demanded.

"We want a system of disarmament, but one that is based on non-military intervention," he said.

"We don't want a war of disarmament because I don't think that will solve the problems."

British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, meanwhile, brushed aside those reservations in a contribution for Focus magazine on Saturday.

"The inspectors have received more time, but they are not a detective agency," Straw said.

"It's absurd to believe 300 or 3,000 inspectors could search a country the size of France and detect substances that could be produced in a living room."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also said in an interview with Bild newspaper the inspectors are not detectives.

"The United States doesn't want war," Powell said. "A war can easily be avoided: Iraq must disarm."

Speaking a week after some 500,000 people took part in the largest peace rally in post-war German history, Fischer said it was vital a joint solution with the U.S. government be found.

"The regime in Baghdad has to know that it is of decisive importance they meet all the demands of the inspectors as quickly as possible," Fischer said.

"And that also includes what Hans Blix has now written in this last letter."

Blix, the chief U.N. arms inspector, ordered Baghdad to start destroying within a week all its liquid-fuelled Al-Samoud 2 missiles because their range exceeded U.N. limits.

The March 1 deadline was a blow for Baghdad. If Iraq does not destroy the missiles, the United States and Britain will argue that war is justified for openly defying a U.N. order.

"It has to be understood in Baghdad that the only way to ensure the option of a peaceful solution is to completely fulfil the U.N. Security Council resolutions and the accompanying demands of the inspectors."

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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