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Oakley: Growing transatlantic split

Oakley
Oakley: Two transatlantic rows

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PARIS, France -- Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Jacques Chirac of France have joined Germany's Chancellor Schroeder in pushing for a solution to the Iraq crisis that would avoid war. CNN anchor Anand Naidoo asked CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley: Can the plan succeed?

OAKLEY: I don't think the U.S. and UK are going to allow the plan to fly when it gets presented to the U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday, the key meeting at which U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix will make his final report on how things are going with Iraq.

What we are seeing is some very heavy duty diplomatic manoeuvring ahead of that meeting. Just how much of a real formal plan Germany and France have drawn up is still in some doubt.

This was being tossed around on the fringes of a Security Council meeting at Munich at the weekend and they didn't seemed to have enough specific detail to offer Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Defense Secretary, who was there -- he was left out of the loop.

What it seems to be is building on the announcement by Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made his representation to the U.N. Security Council last week.

Then de Villepin called for a tripling of the weapons inspectors in Iraq. This seems to have developed a little bit by the Germans talking about a no-fly zone being extended to the whole of Iraq -- virtually the whole country occupied as it were by the United Nations in a permanent U.N. monitoring.

This was pretty rapidly dismissed by the U.S. administration. Colin Powell, for example, has dismissed it as a diversion not a solution.

NAIDOO: So if it's likely if the U.S. and the UK wouldn't allow that plan to fly and a new resolution comes up in the United Nations what are the chances of France vetoing that new resolution?

OAKLEY: It's intriguing because France seems to be slightly hopping about from one foot to the other. The messages coming from Paris last week immediately after Colin Powell's presentation seemed to be France edging a little bit towards the war party, making military preparations, sending an aircraft carrier to the eastern Mediterranean.

Since then the noises coming from President Chirac have been backing off a war again, looking much more like plans to delay it and the question of whether France will use its veto I think has reopened though there's no guarantee at this stage that France would use a veto.

Certainly there is a growing transatlantic split here on the major issue and these talks between Chirac and Putin today are going to be very important.

We have got the situation now where Germany holds the temporary chairmanship of the Security Council, France and Russia, two countries which both hold a veto, are saying they are pretty well agreed on their approach to the war.

And of course there's a second row going on in the background here in NATO because Germany, France and Belgium are opposing advanced planning for Patriot missiles to be sent to Turkey and for AWACS surveillance planes and anti-chemical and biological warfare units to go to Turkey at the request of the United States to help that country should there be any war with Iraq.

These three countries are saying no, you can't do that sort of advanced planning while some countries still believe war can be avoided.

We've had confirmation this morning that it has been held up for the moment because it only takes one of the 19 NATO nations to block it. The French and the Belgians have been making the argument that while they believe that war is not inevitable and diplomatic initiatives are still going on it is too early for NATO to commit itself to measures like this.

But Michele Alliot-Marie, the French defence minister, has said that if it came to a real situation and Turkey was under threat than France would be the first to be at Turkey's side so this must be taken as far as anything as part of the diplomatic and political manoeuvring ahead of the Security Council meeting on Friday when Blix makes his final, crucial report.

NAIDOO: Is there a precedent for something like this in NATO where there is a split among members?

OAKLEY: Well, certainly NATO has had its split in the past and differing degrees of enthusiasm for particular actions. But of course Donald Rumsfeld is very angry about what's happened in NATO, he's calling it a "shameful" decision by the three countries who have been blocking this attempted help for Turkey for the last three weeks.


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