Allies waver as US stands firm

15 February 2002

Washington is maintaining its hardline stance on Iraq, but has made clear that there are no immediate plans to launch a military attack on the country. However, US allies appear wary of US intentions and many are seeking to distance themselves from the administration's apparent determination to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on 12 February that Washington was reviewing various options to oust Saddam Hussein from power, but added that the US is not looking for a war. 'We're looking for peace,' he told the Senate budget committee. 'But you don't find peace by sticking your head in the sand and ignoring evil where it exists.'

The US faces an uphill task persuading other governments to support a move against Baghdad. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview on 11 February with a US newspaper, warned that Iraq was a 'problem' that couldn't be solved by one country alone. 'There are many ways [to solve the problem of Iraq], and the military option is far from being the sole, universal or best solution,' the Russian leader said.

Other European leaders have also expressed their concern. French Foreign Affairs Minister Hubert Vedrine criticised Washington for taking a 'simplistic' approach to foreign policy, while his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, called on Bush not to treat alliance partners like satellite states. Turkey, whose support would be crucial should the US decide to launch an attack on Iraq, is also opposed to the US expanding the war on terrorism to its neighbour. 'We want a military operation against Iraq to be out of the question,' Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on 11 February. 'We are doing our best to solve our region's problems without war.'

Powell made clear that the US would press ahead with plans to initiate a regime change in Baghdad, regardless of overseas reservations. 'Where there is a matter of principle, where we believe strongly about something and we have to stick by our principles, we will do that, and lead, and try to convince others to go with us,' he told senators. 'This isn't unilateralism. this is principled leadership, the kind that [friends of the US] should respect, follow where they think it is appropriate to follow, and where they think it is not appropriate to follow, let them make their own individual sovereign choice.'

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