International opprobrium on war

21 March 2003
As MEED went to press on 21 March, there was growing evidence that permanent members of the UN Security Council were not going to back down on their opposition to war on Iraq, despite the start of hostilities heralded by overnight attacks on Baghdad the previous day.

China was the first to issue a condemnation and call for a halt in the attacks. Both France and Russia in preliminary statements said they regretted the start of hostilities. The UK is participating in the assault. The attack was set to be the subject of a debate in the Security Council, where opponents are expected to continue to express their vehement criticisms of the war.

Early reactions confirmed the world continues to be split over the war, with Muslim countries either opposing conflict or withholding outright declarations of support. In the Far East, Indonesia condemned the attacks while Japan and the Philippines expressed support. In the Arab world, Saudi Arabia said no coalition troops would be allowed to use the kingdom's territory to attack Iraq, though it was unclear as to whether Riyadh had granted overflight rights to allied aircraft attacking Iraq. Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar are providing facilities for air, sea and land attacks. However, their governments have so far withheld clear statements backing the attack.

The war against Iraq was preceded by last-minute efforts to resolve the crisis through diplomatic means. On the evening of 19 March, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain called for President Saddam Hussein to go into exile.

US President Bush said in a televised addressed to the American people following the attacks on Baghdad that 35 countries, some of them unnamed, were supporting the war. This is a larger number than those who expressed support for the war for Kuwait, but the backers do not include France, Germany or Russia. In 1991, all three supported the anti-Iraq coalition.

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