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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 18:26 GMT
Opposition to Iraq war widens
US soldiers on exercise in Kuwait in December
The US and its allies are heading in different directions
China has joined other leading members of the United Nations Security Council to voice strong opposition to an American-led war on Iraq.

France and Germany have already expressed their resistance to military action and demanded that everything be done to avoid a conflict.

I'm quite confident if it comes to that we will be joined by many nations

Colin Powell
And on Thursday Russian President Vladimir Putin told President George W Bush that the UN weapons inspectors' report due on 27 January should be the key to deciding future action.

But despite the widening rift between Washington and other Security Council members, American Secretary of State Colin Powell has insisted that the US will not have to act alone.

"If it can't be solved peacefully and if the UN should fail to act, and I hope that is not the case, then the United States reserves the right to do what it thinks is appropriate to defend its interests," Mr Powell said.

"I'm quite confident, if it comes to that, we will be joined by many nations," he said at a joint news conference with UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.


But while Washington so far has the backing of the UK Government, the other permanent Security Council members are much more guarded.

In a rare intervention on an international issue, China aligned itself with France, which insists there is no justification for military action.

Beijing was "worried and uneasy" about the large-scale military build-up in the Gulf, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue.

"We advocate solving the Iraq question through political and diplomatic means," she said.

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

Russia - which like France and China has power of veto as a permanent member of the Security Council - has also challenged the US position, saying there is no evidence that would justify a war in Iraq.

Mr Putin told President Bush in a telephone conversation on Thursday that "the main criterion" in assessing the situation in Iraq should be the weapons inspectors' findings, the Kremlin announced.

Resentments grow

Both German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac have voiced their strong opposition to a declaration of war.

Very worrying health trends can be seen in Iraq, and it's certainly already in a dire situation, but a war will only make that worse

Ed Cairns
Mr Schroeder also declared that Germany would not even back a United Nations resolution authorising war on Iraq.

The transatlantic divide is becoming starker and resentments are rising to the surface, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday said France and Germany had been "problems", adding that they were "old Europe" and the balance of power was shifting away from them.

French Finance Minister Francis Mer retorted by saying: "This 'old Europe' has resilience, and is capable of bouncing back."

Iraqi scientists

As weapons inspections continue on the ground, six Iraqi scientists have so far refused to submit to private interviews with UN experts, Iraqi officials have said.

"We did our best to push the scientists but they refused such interviews without the presence of representatives of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate," Iraq's chief liaison officer Hossam Mohammed Amin told a news conference.

The UN believes that scientists with any information about possible weapons of mass destruction will be less forthcoming if Iraqi government officials are present.

On Monday, Iraq agreed to allow weapons inspectors to hold private interviews with key individuals.

The important concession was part of a 10-point agreement struck with the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and the head of the UN's nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

  The BBC's Jim Fish
"The pressure mounts from those seeking a peaceful way out"
  US Secretary of State Colin Powell
and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

Key stories





See also:

22 Jan 03 | Europe
23 Jan 03 | Middle East
21 Jan 03 | Business
23 Jan 03 | Politics
23 Jan 03 | Middle East
23 Jan 03 | Middle East
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