"NATO Breaks Monthlong Impasse on Iraq": with France "shut out of the room"!!!

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sun Feb 16 21:46:07 MST 2003

NATO Breaks Monthlong Impasse on Iraq
Sun Feb 16, 6:57 PM ET

By PAUL GEITNER, Associated Press Writer

BRUSSELS, Belgium - NATO (news - web sites), mired in its biggest rift 
since the Cold War, broke a monthlong stalemate Sunday over defensive 
actions in case of war in Iraq, reaffirming alliance solidarity while 
supporting U.N. efforts for a peaceful solution to the crisis with Baghdad.

"Alliance solidarity has prevailed," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson 
said. "We have been able collectively to overcome the impasse."

The decision to start planning for Turkey's defense, however, was taken 
without France, which was shut out of the room as the alliance pushed to 
resolve the crisis.

A senior NATO official said he expected the planning would be wrapped up 
quickly and the committee would be ready to make a decision on deployment 
of actual aid within a few days.

With France out of the way, the two other holdouts, Germany and Belgium, 
dropped their objections.

For a month, France, Germany and Belgium, had blocked a NATO decision to 
begin planning to help fortify Turkey — the only NATO ally bordering Iraq — 
against any potential reprisals. They argued such a move was premature and 
would undermine U.N. efforts to avoid a war.

At the last minute Sunday, Belgium insisted on linking any eventual NATO 
deployment to developments at the U.N. Security Council.

Announcing the agreement, Robertson said: "This is not a step toward going 
to war. We have stated the obvious, that is we support the United Nations 
(news - web sites) process, that these decisions are purely for the defense 
of Turkey."

The final statement underlined that the allies continued "to support 
efforts in the United Nations to find a peaceful solution to the crisis."

The three holdouts issued a joint statement stressing their determination 
to honor their obligations to NATO, but also their desire to disarm Iraq 
without force.

They noted that not all alternatives to force had been "fully exploited."

NATO diplomats said the United States and other allies objected in 
principle to tying alliance decision-making to any other organization.

NATO, trying to end the stalemate, put the issue Sunday to its Defense 
Planning Committee, which excludes France. Paris left NATO's military 
command structure in the late 1960s and participates only in political 

The committee was used ahead of the 1991 war against Iraq to approve aid 
for Turkey. But NATO has sought to limit its use since the end of the Cold 
War in a spirit of rapprochement with Paris.

"We would have preferred to have a decision ... with all 19 members 
present," Roberston said. "France believed that these measures were not yet 
opportune. But I hope that people will not in any way get a signal that it 
implies any less commitment," to Turkey's defense.

The United States proposed a month ago that the alliance consider sending 
early warning AWACS aircraft, missile defenses and anti-biochemical units 
to Turkey.

But after France, Germany and Belgium blocked the planning for three weeks, 
Turkey last week invoked NATO's mutual defense treaty, which binds the 
allies to talks when one feels threatened, but so far to no avail.

Turkey feels especially vulnerable since it is considering allowing tens of 
thousands of U.S. soldiers to use Turkish facilities for a possible Iraq war.

The United States and its allies say denying support for Turkey's defense 
erodes the alliance's credibility and sends the wrong signal to Iraqi 
President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

Some of the measures can be done bilaterally — Germany has already agreed 
to send Patriot missiles to Turkey via the Netherlands — but those missiles 
need to be linked to NATO radar networks to be effective.

Countries such as Germany also have promised AWACS crews, but the planes 
themselves are NATO assets.

The monthlong dispute drove a deep wedge into the 53-year-old alliance.

It also exacerbated tensions within Europe ahead of Monday's emergency 
summit of 15 European Union (news - web sites) leaders, who are trying to 
reconcile their own widely differing policies on Iraq.

Britain, Spain, Denmark and Italy have broadly backed President Bush (news 
- web sites), while France and Germany have tried to slow what they see as 
his headlong rush to war.

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