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Europe

Russia, Germany, France Criticize United States On Iraq

As the United States and its allies prepared for war on Wednesday, Russia, Germany and France criticized the U.S. for planning to violently depose Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

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In session: the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a new Iraq resolution last November.

Hours before a deadline imposed by U.S. President George W. Bush for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq was due to pass, the Russian, German and French foreign ministers criticized the United States for planning to overthrow the Iraqi president.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that no U.N. Security Council resolution authorized the use of force against Iraq outside the U.N. Charter. "Not one of them authorizes the violent overthrow of the leadership of a sovereign state," Ivanov told the council.

Ivanov emphasized that the Security Council had not received any information to indicate that Iraq posed a direct threat to the United States. If it had been in possession of "indisputable facts" to that effect "then Russia, without any hesitation, would use any means available under the U.N. Charter to eliminate such a threat," he said.

Mars not Venus

"There is no basis in the U.N. Charter for a regime change with military means," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said in his address to the council. He stressed that a majority of people in Germany and the rest of Europe were disturbed by the imminent war.

"Those who know our European history understand that we do not live on Venus, but, rather that we are the survivors of Mars. War is terrible," he said. "It can only be the very last resort."

In an obvious address to the United States, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin too, one of the most vocal critics of military action against Iraq, declared, "To those who think that the scourge of terrorism will be eradicated through what is done in Iraq, we say that they run the risk of failing in their objective."

De Villepin said it was time for the international community to pull together and apply itself to Iraq's humanitarian needs.

While the three statesmen deplored the end of the weapons inspection program, British Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock suggested that disarmament of Iraq could be pursued at a later date.

Unclear future for disarmament

"A more definitive work program (for U.N. inspectors) will be possible when there is an administration in Iraq, which is prepared to cooperate fully, actively and unconditionally," he said.

The United States was unwilling to speculate about the future of disarming Iraq.

"The fact of the matter is that the situation on the ground will change, and so will the nature of the remaining disarmament tasks," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told the council. Considering a work program at this time is quite simply out of touch with the reality that we confront."

The Security Council meeting was called to discuss the latest plan for the disarmament of Iraq prepared by chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. Once the council began to meet, Blix expressed his regret that the inspections were ended and said that his team had not had enough time since they resumed their work in November to determine whether Iraq had destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction.

The United States decided to bypass the council and issue a deadline of 2 a.m. (Central European Time) on Thursday for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw did not attend.

Fischer sees 'no alternative' to U.N.

Joschka Fischer im Sicherheitsrat

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer addresses the Security Council.

But German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (photo) said the United Nations remained an important player in world affairs. "There is no alternative to the central role of the United Nations and to a new world order based on cooperation among the world's countries," Fischer said.

U.N. sources told the Associated Press that Secretary-General Kofi Annan would administer a $40 billion humanitarian program generated by Iraqi oil production, the sources said. To ensure speedy approval of the plan, Annan is supposed to present the proposal to the Security Council himself, the sources said. The plan would be an extension of an oil-for-food program created in 1996 to ease the effects of U.N. sanctions imposed on Saddam's regime.

In Washington, Bush took some of his final steps in preparing to launch the invasion of Iraq. Among other things, the White House sent Congress formal notification of justification for war. The three-paragraph document says diplomacy has failed to protect America's security, and it links Saddam's regime with the al Qaida network, implicated in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

Bush aide sees 'many unknowns'

"On the brink of war with Iraq, Americans should be prepared for what we hope will be as precise, short a conflict as possible, but there are many unknowns and it could be a matter of some duration," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

"Americans ought to be prepared for loss of life. Americans ought to be prepared for the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein to protect the peace."

The White House had no plans to mark the 8 p.m. EST Wednesday deadline. War won't necessarily begin at that time. Aides said Bush would decide on the timing of military action based on the advice of military leaders.

In Ankara, Turkey, the new government there also made plans to help the United States conduct the war. It scheduled a parliamentary vote for Thursday on the issue of allowing the United States to use Turkish airspace during the attack. Such assistance falls short of what the United States had asked Turkey to provide -- permission to station 62,000 American soldiers who could launch a northern front against Iraq. That request was rejected by the parliament on March 1, and the decision cost the country at least $6 billion in aid.

Germans bolster security for Americans

In Germany, the government of Gerhard Schröder stepped up its security force guarding U.S. facilities in the country from 2,500 soldiers to 3,700, Defense Secretary Peter Struck said on Tuesday evening. But Struck rejected a request from the state of Baden-Württemberg that troops should also be assigned to protect American shopping and housing areas in the country. The minister said such patrols were the job of police officers.

Interior Minister Otto Schily suggested that the war would increase the threat of terrorism in Germany. "The terror network al Qaida will mostly react to the war by increasing its terror activities and use it for propaganda purposes," Schily said in a television interview. "We also have to expect that there will be so-called spontaneous terrorists from the extremist, fundamentalist Islamic scene."

But Rolf Tophoven, a terrorism reseacher in Bonn, said he thought the chances of Germany's becoming a terror target would be small. "The danger comes from attacks carried out by unknown fanatical individual terrorists," Tophoven said. "We aren't the main address for terrorists."

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