France, Germany stand firm on Iraq
PARIS, France (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac said France and Germany have "the same point of view" on the Iraqi crisis.
Chirac said any decision on war in the end resides with the U.N. Security Council and that war should be avoided.
Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder held a news conference at the Elysee Palace on Wednesday after a joint Cabinet meeting to mark 40 years of reconciliation. During the briefing, they were asked about Iraq.
"Germany and France have the same judgement on this crisis," Chirac said.
The French president said their mutual stance is based on two ideas.
"The first is that any decision belongs to the Security Council and the Security Council alone, which will address the issue after having examined the latest inspectors' report.
A report on the status of inspections will be delivered to the Security Council on Monday.
"Secondly, as far as we're concerned, war always means failure," Chirac said. "Everything must be done to avoid war."
"We will do all we can to make sure our position is understood by everyone," he added.
Schroeder, standing beside Chirac, said he had nothing to add to the comments.
Schroeder: 'No' to war in Iraq
But earlier, at a political rally on Tuesday, Schroeder declared his country was not ready to back any new U.N. resolution supporting military action in Iraq.
"Don't expect Germany to approve a resolution legitimising war, don't expect it," he told party members.
His comments are the clearest indication yet on how Germany will vote if a resolution on a possible strike against Baghdad comes before the U.N. Security Council.
In Wednesday's press conference, Chirac did not comment on whether, if a resolution on attacking Iraq were presented to the council, France would vote the same way as Germany.
But his foreign minister hinted this week that it might use its veto to block any authorisation for war.
"We see no justification right now for any military action," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Tuesday during a visit to Belgium.
Although Germany has no powers of veto in the U.N., analysts say Schroeder's speech points to a vote against, or abstention at this stage, of any resolution authorising military action against Iraq.
Germany, which became a temporary member of the Security Council this month, takes over the rotating chair of the council in February. (Full story)
Schroeder has already refused to send German troops to any Gulf campaign and Germany is one of four key countries on the Security Council expressing reluctance to see a war in the region.
France, Russia and China -- all permanent members of the council -- have made it clear they will not be rushed by any pressure from Washington for action against Saddam Hussein, and have backed a call by U.N. inspectors for more time to carry out their searches in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld downplayed the statements, saying most other European countries support the United States in its confrontation with Iraq.
"Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem," said Rumsfeld, a former NATO ambassador. "But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this, they're with the United States."
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the inspectors should "have time to do their job" during a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
But he said inspectors should be given full access to sites. "Let us be clear about what their job is, their job is not to play an elaborate game of hide and seek with Saddam," he said.
The U.N. weapons inspectors are due to report to the Security Council on its findings so far on January 27.
U.S. President George W. Bush has repeated his claim that time is running out for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to comply with Resolution 1441 to disarm. (Full Story)
Bush said: "He is delaying. He's deceiving. He's asking for time. He's playing hide-and-seek with inspectors."