Demonstrations shocked politicians

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Feb 18 11:25:15 MST 2003

Daily News (New York)
February 18, 2003, Tuesday SPORTS FINAL EDITION

BRITS, TURKS WAFFLE ON IRAQ    Big anti-war rallies shocked pols


WASHINGTON - U.S. allies Britain and Turkey appeared to waver yesterday
in their resolve to back quick military action against Iraq with or
without UN approval.

Stunned by huge peace demonstrations over the weekend, British Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw said it would be "very difficult indeed" for the
embattled Labor government of Prime Minister Tony Blair to wage war with
a majority of the party and the nation opposed.

Turkey also appeared taken aback by the massive protests and delayed a
parliamentary vote on setting conditions for the flow of thousands of
U.S. Army troops into the country to open a northern front against Iraq
in the event of war. Iraq complicated the allied attempts to achieve
unity by belatedly complying with a major demand of the UN weapons
inspectors and allowing the first overflight of an American U-2
reconnaissance aircraft.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said the spy plane made an overflight of more
than four hours, but there was no immediate confirmation from the U.S.

Scolding from Chirac

In Brussels, divisions among the 15 nations of the European Union on
Iraq were further strained by a general declaration backing the U.S.
push for swift and complete disarmament by Baghdad.

The declaration said Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had one "last chance"
to disarm but also called war a "last resort."

French President Jacques Chirac, who has led the opposition to a
U.S.-led war, took the opportunity to scold several Eastern European
countries that recently signed a letter backing the hawkish U.S. stand.
Chirac suggested it could jeopardize their chances of joining the EU.

"It is not really responsible behavior," he told a news conference. "It
is not well-brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep

The EU declaration was overshadowed by Straw's earlier remarks that "we
have to take account of public opinion" in backing the U.S. push for
quick military action if Iraq fails to disarm.

"It's patently more straightforward for governments to take a country to
war, to military action, if they palpably have the public behind them
than if not," Straw said.

Straw and Blair said the British public would back the military option
if authorized in a second UN resolution.

Blair's staunch support for a war with Iraq has cost him politically in
Britain, where a large portion of public opinion is opposed to a war.

A poll by The Guardian newspaper released yesterday said only 35% of the
British are satisfied with his leadership.

Significantly, Straw said he "would not put a deadline" on talks to
achieve a new resolution that Chirac said he already viewed as a

"There is no need for a second resolution," Chirac said, "which France
would have no choice but to oppose." Chirac said inspections were
working and should continue.

"We consider that war is always, always, the worst solution," Chirac said.


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