More inspections enjoy broad U.N. support
France: 'Give peace a chance'
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Officials from France, China and Russia pressed for continued U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq after two arms inspectors told the Security Council they had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
"What is at stake here is war and peace. ... We are willing to try to give peace a chance," said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin outside the council session. Inside the meeting, his comments were followed by loud applause.
France, China and Russia are permanent council members, along with the United States and Britain, and have veto power over resolutions. France, along with NATO members Belgium and Germany, also opposes defense assistance to Turkey, contrary to the United States' wishes.
"We want from the Iraqis full compliance," de Villepin said. The council must keep the pressure on Iraq to disarm, he said, and should give the inspectors whatever they need to do their job.
De Villepin said it is up to the Security Council to decide whether Iraq is in "material breach" of Resolution 1441, and to pass any resolution calling for war.
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said the council should support the inspections and avoid an armed conflict.
China: 'Use all possible means to avert war'
"To intensify inspections is for the purpose of seeking a peaceful solution to the Iraqi issue," he said. "We are obliged to try our best and use all possible means to avert war."
Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, joined France in proposing increasing the number of inspectors in Iraq and their technical resources. "Why should we now halt the inspections? On the contrary, the inspectors must be given the time they need to successfully complete their tasks," Fischer said.
Russia echoed the views of China and France, with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov saying the council could not ignore the fact that "substantial progress" had been made since chief weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visited Iraq in January.
"There is movement -- movement in the right direction," Ivanov said.
"Inspectors must continue their inspections. Force can be resorted to -- but only when all other remedies have been exhausted," he said, while also urging Iraq to "continue" cooperating.
The only support for the United States' position came from Britain, who, with Spain and Italy, has been among the strongest supporters of President Bush's hard-line stance against Iraq.
"Nobody who has spoken so far has suggested for a second that Iraq is fully and actively complying with the obligations that we imposed on them on the eighth of November of last year," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in reference to Resolution 1441.
Britain: Iraq has 'played games'
Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, said Straw, the Iraqis have "lied. They've concealed. They've played games, a game of catch as catch can."
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Al-Shara, the first council member to speak after Blix and ElBaradei's reports, urged the council to continue to support the inspectors and give them more time.
He said that "substantial progress" had been made in the two weeks since the last U.N. inspection report to the Security Council.
"The great majority of the people of the world are saying no to this war. This war will result in great consequences for Iraq. ... It will lead to total anarchy," Al-Shara said.
Blix and ElBaradei delivered their third progress report since the council passed Resolution 1441, which ordered Iraq to disarm.
Iraq has denied that it has any banned nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
"Today was the day of France at the U.N.," said Yahya Mahmassani, ambassador to the Arab League, outside the meeting. "Last week's meeting was the U.S.'s but all the applause by the ambassadors after the French speech shows how people are against U.S. policy."
"Nobody is in favor of war," he added, characterizing the French speech as "a slap in the face to the U.S."
The Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Aldouri, said Iraq had opened its doors to the inspection teams without restrictions or conditions.
"We know that some states were not happy [with] this cooperation; some would wish Iraq obstructed inspections, closed doors," he said. "This did not and will not happen."
The Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, Munir Akram, said all other means should be exhausted before force is used in Iraq.
"The decision for the use of force cannot be an easy one for anyone," he said. "For Pakistan, an Islamic country from the region, such a decision will be a most difficult one."