U.S. confident of international support on Iraq
Three permanent Security Council members express doubts
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With apparent division growing among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the Bush administration asserted Thursday that it would have international support if it opts to use force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone," said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. "If it can't be solved peacefully and if the U.N. should fail to act -- and I hope that is not the case -- then the United States reserves the right to do what it thinks is appropriate to defend its interests, the interests of its friends and to protect the world.
"And I am quite confident if it comes to that we will be joined by many nations."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer dismissed the notion of unilateralism Thursday, saying military action against Iraq is supported by Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, eastern Europe countries that are members of NATO and some other members of the European Union.
Fleischer said Bush is confident "Europe will heed the call," but he added, "It's entirely possible France will not be on the line."
France, China and Russia -- all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council with veto power over any resolution -- have expressed reservations about using force to disarm Saddam's regime.
The Security Council's other two permanent members -- the United States and Britain -- have urged the United Nations to stand firm against Iraq.
China said Thursday its position on a potential war with Iraq was "extremely close" to that of France, which has said all possible action must be taken to avoid a conflict. (Full story)
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Wednesday they were not convinced a war with Iraq was necessary while U.N. arms inspectors were still searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
"Any decision belongs to the Security Council and the Security Council alone, which will address the issue after having examined the latest inspectors' report," Chirac said. "Secondly, as far as we're concerned, war always means failure." (Full story)
Diplomats said Wednesday that France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg had blocked a decision to order NATO planners to start work on options submitted by the United States. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson denied there was a "bust-up" in the 19-nation alliance over supporting a war in Iraq, saying the only disagreement was over timing.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia, another permanent council member, told Bush in a telephone conversation Thursday that an assessment of the Iraq situation should be based primarily on the inspectors' findings, the Russian Interfax news agency reported.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Tuesday that Russia would not back a unilateral military operation against Iraq and said weapons inspectors must continue their work, according to Interfax. (Full story)
• U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz joined a list of U.S. officials highlighting the need to disarm Iraq. Wolfowitz said Thursday that Iraqi scientists have been threatened with death if they cooperate with U.N. inspectors. "We know that scientists are being tutored on what to say to the U.N. inspectors," Wolfowitz said. This week, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice have all spoken out on Iraq's continued non-compliance with the U.N.
• Rice asserted Thursday that Iraq "is still treating inspections as a game" and "it should know that time is running out." In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Rice said Iraq is "failing in spectacular fashion." (Full story)
• A group of six countries -- including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran -- urged a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis Thursday, demanding that Iraq comply with the inspections in exchange for their help in avoiding a military conflict with the United States. (Full story)