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Saturday, 8 February, 2003, 15:47 GMT
Rumsfeld says Iraq action is vital
Anti-war march in Munich
Munich marchers sent a message to the US
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has to be tackled or the cost could be "unthinkable".

The cost of underestimating the threat is unthinkable

Donald Rumsfeld,
US Defence Secretary
He told a security conference in Germany that he could not believe any open-minded person still had doubts about the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

Speaking as chief weapons inspectors flew to Baghdad for talks, Mr Rumsfeld said it was a vital time for the United Nations to show it was still relevant.

However, the German foreign minister told the same conference that he was "simply not convinced" by the arguments for going to war.

And at least 10,000 people rallied outside the conference venue in Munich to demand peace.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Mr Rumsfeld told his high-powered audience - including EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson - that resolve had to be shown.

Munich anti-war march
Munich mayor Christian Ude (l) joined the march
He said he could not believe there were still doubts about Saddam after the presentation of intelligence data by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council last Wednesday.

"The threat is there to see and if the worst were to happen and if we had done nothing to stop it, not one of us here today could honestly say that it was a surprise," he said.

"We are on notice."

He said Saddam had crossed "17 lines in the sand" marked by UN resolutions and had to be stopped from continuing to defy the international community.

Deployments 'necessary'

While Mr Rumsfeld said no-one wanted war and a peaceful solution was still possible, he claimed delaying preparation would simply make conflict more likely.

The US is sending tens of thousands of troops to the Gulf and allies such as the UK are also deploying forces.

I cannot go to the public and say these are the reasons [for war] because I don't believe them

Joschka Fischer,
German Foreign Minister
"If the international community once again shows a lack of resolve there is no chance that Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily or flee his country and thus little chance of a peaceful outcome," he said.

He stressed to the gathering of the Western Alliance of 30 countries that the possibility that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction raised the stakes hugely.

"We have reached a point in history when the margin for error we once enjoyed is gone... the cost of underestimating the threat is unthinkable," he said.

Franco-German peace plans

But the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told the same conference he still did not see the justification for an invasion to disarm Iraq by force.

Donald Rumsfeld (l) and Joschka Fischer
Mr Rumsfeld (l) and Mr Fischer continue to disagree
"I cannot go to the public and say these are the reasons because I don't believe them," he said.

He urged that UN inspectors be given more time to continue their work.

Separately, a German Government spokesman told the BBC that Germany and France were preparing a new initiative to prevent war.

He gave no details, but the comments followed an article in Der Spiegel news magazine which reported on a new bilateral plan.

It said the plan envisaged:

  • Deploying UN troops to Iraq to support beefed-up weapons searches
  • Declaring the whole of Iraq a no-fly zone
  • Tightening sanctions on exports to Iraq

The magazine said the proposals could be presented to the Security Council which is to receive the weapons inspectors' latest report on Friday.

Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson said at the security conference that there was "complete agreement" over the alliance's commitment to protect Turkey - which borders Iraq.

Mr Rumsfeld had excoriated Nato allies Germany, France and Belgium for trying to stall the deployment of defence equipment to Ankara.

But Lord Robertson said he was confident that a plan to send help to Turkey would be made soon.

The BBC's Tristana Moore in Munich
"US-German relations are at rock bottom"
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
"We still hope that force may not be necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein"
Christian Ude, Mayor of Munich
"There are no facts that can justify going to war"

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See also:

08 Feb 03 | Middle East
07 Feb 03 | Europe
07 Feb 03 | Media reports
05 Feb 03 | Europe
23 Jan 03 | Europe
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