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Powell: U.S. has 12 allies on Iraq

Powell arrives at the Swiss ski resort of Davos Saturday to attend the World Economic Forum.
Powell arrives at the Swiss ski resort of Davos Saturday to attend the World Economic Forum.

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DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Colin Powell says the United States is counting on the support of at least a dozen countries for war against Iraq -- with or without another U.N. Security Council resolution.

The U.S. Secretary of State's comments Saturday came as the European Union tries to bridge the divide between Washington and some of its closest allies over whether U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq should continue.

But the U.S. faces renewed opposition from Security Council permanent members France and Russia to any rush to military action against Baghdad.

Powell arrived in Davos on Saturday for the World Economic Forum ready to rally international support for a possible military strike on Iraq.

"I will bring a message of American determination to work with the international community to deal with the most important threat, the threat presented by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction," he said.

"We cannot now start shrinking because the going is getting tough. The burden is on Iraq, Iraq must comply or it will be made to comply by military force."

Despite recent wavering from some European countries, Powell said the United States has the support of at least a dozen unnamed countries, "with or without" another U.N. resolution approving a military strike on Iraq.

"I don't want to give names or give you a count, because I think each country should speak for itself on a matter as important as this," Powell said, en route to Davos. "So we would not be alone, that's for sure. I could rattle off at least a dozen off memory and I think there will be more."

He said the 12 unnamed countries would prefer a second U.N. resolution but "without that other resolution, they will be with us."

Powell also said the United States would wait for inspectors to give their report to the Security Council before making any decision on what to do next. However, he told the Financial Times Saturday that allowing more time for inspections would still not yield better results.

The White House has not set a cutoff date for U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, but the United States will not tolerate inspections that continue for months on end, senior administration officials said Friday. (Full story)

"There are steps that we plan to go through, methodically, deliberately," Powell said. "There will be ultimately an end, I believe, to the patience of the international community."

He said the case against Iraq would be laid out over the next few days, including the weapons inspectors' report due Monday, U.S. President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday, Wednesday's U.N. Security Council meeting, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit to Camp David Friday.

"You'll see more of the case being laid out and repeated so that people understand it," he said.

But in a sign that the row between Washington and key European allies continues, French President Jacques Chirac and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed during a telephone conversation Friday that their positions on the Iraq crisis were similar.

Solana: "We have to do the utmost to maintain this relationship."

Both France and Russia have set themselves against the U.S. position by holding out against going to war with Iraq too hastily. During the conversation the two leaders agreed that "the positions of France and Russia were very close," Chirac's spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna told Reuters.

Chirac said the inspectors must finish their job, a position at odds with that of Bush, who has grown increasingly impatient with the inspection process.

On Friday the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in Athens that a rift between Washington and leading European nations over Iraq would be a "very negative thing."

"I think we have to cool off a little bit," he told reporters. "We have a very profound friendship with the United States and we have to do the utmost to maintain this relationship," he said.

His comments followed anger in Germany and France over an accusation by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that they represented "old Europe" and were isolated in their opposition to war with Iraq. (Full story)

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also sought to calm the dispute, saying the two continents were built on the same values.

"I want to keep the debate factual and I don't want to take part in polemic disputes," Schroeder said in an interview with RTL television for broadcast Friday.

-- CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report

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