More evidence that the protests had an impact - washingtonpost

Ralph Johansen michele at maui.net
Tue Feb 18 14:20:36 MST 2003


<Despite the warning, the European declaration was marked most by what
it did not say: It set no deadline for the inspections to be called
off; it did not commit European countries to using force to back up
U.N. resolutions on disarming Iraq; and it did not say Hussein is
already in "material breach" of the resolutions.>

washingtonpost.com

EU Leaders Agree: Inspectors Should Get More Time

By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 18, 2003; Page A17

BRUSSELS, Feb. 17 -- Acknowledging antiwar protests across the
continent, the 15 European Union leaders agreed tonight that U.N.
weapons inspectors should be given more time to find and destroy
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and declared that a war against
President Saddam Hussein "should be used only as a last resort."

Gathered here for an emergency summit to help heal deep divisions in
Europe over Iraq, the leaders also warned Iraq that "inspections
cannot continue indefinitely" and said Hussein must "disarm and
cooperate immediately" to avoid the attack threatened by the Bush
administration.

"Baghdad should have no illusions," a summit statement said. "It must
disarm and cooperate immediately and fully. Iraq has a final
opportunity to resolve this crisis peacefully. The Iraqi regime alone
will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the
will of the international community and does not take this last
chance."

Despite the warning, the European declaration was marked most by what
it did not say: It set no deadline for the inspections to be called
off; it did not commit European countries to using force to back up
U.N. resolutions on disarming Iraq; and it did not say Hussein is
already in "material breach" of the resolutions.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the U.S. ally most closely aligned
with Washington, had sought these elements as part of his effort to
narrow the gap between his fellow European Union leaders, who want to
give the U.N. inspectors more time, and a Bush administration that is
saying with increasing impatience that time is up. Instead, the
statement said Europe wants to disarm Iraq peacefully. And in a bow
to the millions of antiwar protesters who took to the streets over
the weekend, it said the union is pushing for a peaceful solution to
the Iraqi crisis because "it is clear that this is what the people of
Europe want."

The summit's emphasis on more time for inspections and on war "only
as a last resort" appeared to be a victory for French President
Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. They came to
this summit emboldened by Friday's interim report of the U.N. weapons
inspectors, which noted some new if incomplete signs of Iraqi
compliance, and by Saturday's outpouring of protests against war.

Chirac and Blair entered this summit staking out sharply different
sides in this very public debate, with Chirac saying again today that
it is too early to call for a new U.N. Security Council resolution on
Iraq and Blair saying the EU needs to send a message of strength to
Hussein. European officials went to great lengths to say their
emphasis on finding a peaceful solution to the crisis was prompted by
the huge demonstrations, which saw close to a million people marching
in London and similar numbers in Rome, Madrid and Barcelona.

"These were not only young, politicized people," said Romano Prodi,
president of the European Commission, the EU's executive body. "This
was the whole society that took part in a spontaneous way." He said
at another point, "We cannot forget the millions in the streets this
weekend, so we are together with a message that Europe is united."

Asked about the message of the mass protests, Greek Prime Minister
Costas Simitis, the summit host, answered simply: "People want peace."

The summit was seen as an attempt to salvage something of a common
European policy toward Iraq. The crisis has left the European Union
severely split between two camps. On one side are governments like
those of Britain, Spain and Italy that actively support the Bush
administration view. On the other is the "peace camp" led by France,
Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, whose leaders want to avoid a war as
long as possible.

Other European countries have kept quiet, but are split between those
two positions. Sweden, Finland and Austria generally belong to the
peace camp, saying any resort to force must have Security Council
backing, while Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal have backed the
hard U.S. line against Hussein. The issue had prompted tough words
and bitter feelings among Europeans. France formed its own peace axis
with Germany and Russia, while Britain and Spain angered others by
lining up eight EU and Eastern European leaders to sign a letter
backing Bush.

Chirac denounced the Eastern European leaders who signed the letter,
saying their decision "is not really responsible behavior."

"It is not well brought-up behavior," he told a news conference after
the summit. "They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."

Britain, along with the United States, has been considering
submitting a new Security Council resolution this week saying that
Iraq is in material breach of the Nov. 8 resolution demanding total
cooperation with weapons inspectors. The new resolution could be used
as a legal pretext for a military strike to oust Hussein. But Chirac,
whose country wields a veto on the Security Council, came out firmly
opposed, telling reporters, "It is not necessary today to have a
second resolution, which France could only oppose."

Schroeder also declared a victory of sorts, saying Germany
successfully fought a British proposal for language saying "time was
running out" for Hussein to disarm. "That was not acceptable to us,"
Schroeder told reporters. But by backing the final statement, which
says war could be a "last resort," Schroeder seemed to compromise on
his earlier stance that war would be unacceptable to Germany in any
case.

The strong French position, the emboldened position of the peace camp
and the new EU statement seem to further complicate the Bush
administration's planning for a possible war.

The weekend protests seem to have made even Britain more susceptible
to the idea of giving the weapons inspectors more time. In a BBC
radio interview, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "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." At a news conference later, he said the British government will
"listen carefully" to the expressions of public opinion.

Bush administration officials warned Sunday that the antiwar protests
only strengthened Hussein and made a war more likely. Condoleezza
Rice, the national security adviser, said calls for delay "play into
the hands of Saddam Hussein" and she warned Europeans against
"appeasement," a term generally applied to the failure to confront
Adolf Hitler before World War II.

U.S. officials have long worried that Iraq would use small, and what
it considers inconsequential, concessions to try to drive a wedge
between Washington and its European allies. One concession, made last
week, was to allow American U-2 surveillance planes to fly over Iraq.
In Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry reported that the first of those
flights took place today and lasted for about four hours and 20
minutes.

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