EU May Not Help a Post-Saddam Iraq
European Union Official Says EU May Not Pay Iraq Aid if War Lacks U.N. Support
The Associated Press
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LONDON Jan. 14 —
President Bush will have trouble persuading Europeans to help pay for the possible reconstruction of Iraq if he invades the country without United Nations support, a top European Union official was quoted as saying Tuesday.
Chris Patten, the union's external relations commissioner, said Europeans could be reluctant to reprise their role as major donors in postwar Afghanistan, if Bush acts against Saddam Hussein's regime without U.N. backing, The Guardian newspaper reported.
"I would find it much more difficult to get the approval of member states and the European parliament if the military intervention that had occasioned the need for development aid did not have a U.N. mandate," Patten was quoted as saying.
"This isn't provocative. This is describing what is a likely situation. I see every possible argument for trying to go through the U.N., if it's at all humanly possible," he reportedly said.
There is widespread opposition in Europe to the possibility of America leading an attack on Iraq without United Nations backing or clear evidence that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, as the United States and Britain have alleged.
Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, whose country holds the EU presidency, said Tuesday that consensus was growing among European leaders against a "unilateral" military assault on Iraq.
"Various efforts have been made in the last few days to build a coordinated European policy," he said.
"There has been a convergence of opinion among the leaders of Germany, Britain and France compared with the situation that existed a few months ago."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said U.N. weapons inspectors should be given more time to finish their work in Iraq, emphasizing that he remains unconvinced of the need for a war to disarm Saddam.
Britain, meanwhile, has already started military preparations for a war. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Tuesday that the air dispatch of an unspecified number of Royal Marines would begin shortly.
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Hoon said that preparations included the deployment of engineering and signaling equipment and command vehicles.
"This will involve major road movements in the U.K. and Germany and the loading of ships which will sail in the next few days," he said.
On Saturday, the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal set sail toward the Gulf at the head of Britain's biggest naval deployment since the 1982 Falklands War. Hoon said the deployment, which carried 3,000 Royal Marines, would head for the Mediterranean to train for action in the Gulf "if and as required."
During a nationally televised news conference on Monday, Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasized the importance of U.N. involvement in confronting Saddam, but despite heavy domestic political pressure he declined to promise he would only use force with the world body's backing.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday that if war is necessary Britain would prefer to fight with U.N. support but reserved the right to go ahead without it.
"If Saddam Hussein doesn't accept the peaceful path to the disarmament of his weapons of mass destruction set out by the U.N. resolution, then there will have to be military action taken in order to enforce the will of the U.N.," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"There are two preferences. One is to have a second Security Council resolution, which we want, though we have had to reserve our rights if we can't achieve that," Straw said.
The government's second preference, he said, was to act with the approval of Parliament, although he added that might have to come after the fact, if a vote ahead of hostilities would endanger troops.