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Germany working to slow U.S. march toward war

BERLIN—Germany says it has enough votes in the U.N. Security Council to slow the move toward war with Iraq, arguing that council members overwhelmingly prefer giving weapons inspectors more time to verify Iraqi claims that is has complied with international demands to disarm.

A key moment in the build-up toward a war with Iraq comes Friday, when chief U.N. weapons inspectors are scheduled to report to the Security Council. Several council members say the report could be a deciding factor in whether the council moves to explicitly authorize military strikes to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"Germany is not alone in its position on concentrating on keeping the peace," said a senior German official, briefing reporters in the chancellery Tuesday.

On Capitol Hill, skeptical lawmakers grilled administration officials about its post-conflict goals in Iraq and its exit strategy. "We are trying to make this up as we go along," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The German official said he counted 11 members of the 15-nation council who support extending inspection. A new U.N. resolution was unnecessary, the official said, since "the inspectors are starting to have success. This is not the time to finish the campaign, and to say now we have to resort to military force."

In anticipation of Friday's report, President Bush called British Prime Minister Tony Blair and discussed Iraq with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The telephone calls signal the administration's continuing diplomatic efforts to forge a "coalition of the willing" to wage war with Iraq if the Security Council will not.

The United States, which has said it does not need a new resolution, sees support on the council shifting to its side.

To date, it is supported on the council by the United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria and to a lesser degree Chile and Angola. The German position is strongly shared by France, Russia, China and Syria. Possible swing votes are Mexico, Pakistan, Cameroon and Guinea.

For a resolution to be adopted, it needs nine positive votes and no veto from the five permanent council members—the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China. Germany currently holds the council's rotating presidency, which allows it to set the calendar of work for the month.

The United States may offer the Security Council a new resolution that would explicitly authorize war, a U.S. official told Knight Ridder, speaking on condition of anonymity.

If offered, he said, the new resolution would be "an opportunity to keep the council unified ... or send a message to the Iraqi leadership that the U.N.'s words mean nothing." France and Germany, the official said, "are making excuses for noncompliance" with existing U.N. resolutions.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Budget Committee that the United States wasn't endangering its alliances with countries that are reluctant to go to war.

"We're not breaking up the alliance. We're just making sure the alliance—both the U.N. alliance and the NATO alliance—deals with its responsibility and remains relevant to the task before it," he said.

Powell also sought to bolster the United States' argument that Iraq has links to terrorism by referring to the broadcast of a tape in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden offers support for Iraq.

Meanwhile in Brussels, NATO ambassadors from the alliance's 19 countries met three times Tuesday in unsuccessful efforts to break an impasse over preparing for Turkey's defense should war begin in neighboring Iraq. "We're still stuck," a NATO diplomat said at the end of the day.

On Monday, France, Germany and Belgium blocked a plan to supply Turkey with AWACS surveillance planes, Patriot missiles and chemical and biological detection teams. Despite pressure from 16 countries, the three continued to hold out, saying a decision on Turkey's defense is premature and sends a signal that war is inevitable.

U.S. and British officials have been outspoken in criticizing the three countries for abandoning an ally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the move "a setback for NATO," and U.S. Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns spoke of a "crisis of credibility."

The senior German official said intensified U.N. inspections are preferable to military action, and that Germany and France favor tripling the number of people working to verify that Iraq has abandoned developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The official said Germany is supporting an idea introduced last week by French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Security Council diplomacy was also at work in other capitals Tuesday.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin told French President Jacques Chirac by phone that China believes "warfare is good for no one, and it is our responsibility to take various measures to avoid war," according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In Paris, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin praised an emerging Franco-Russian partnership against an Iraq war, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin, "It is up to us ... to do everything possible to prevent a conflict that could seriously threaten regional and international stability."


(Rubin reported from Berlin; Ibarguen reported from Washington. Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Jonathan S. Landay in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, and Sumana Chatterjee in Washington contributed to this report.)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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