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EU Ministers Against Attacking Iraq

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Associated Press Writer

October 4, 2002, 7:11 PM EDT

RETHYMNO, Greece -- Europe's defense ministers cautioned against an attack on Iraq, urging the United States on Friday to rely on diplomatic efforts and U.N. inspections to enforce Iraq's compliance with a ban on weapons of mass destruction.

"Our main aim must be, on the one hand to allow inspectors to go in without conditions and on the other hand to avoid war," German Defense Minister Peter Struck said.

Struck, speaking to reporters at the start of a two-day meeting of European Union defense ministers, warned that "war would have great political consequences and worldwide economic repercussions as well costing many lives."

Germany's leadership of the European anti-war camp has caused its relations with Washington slump to the lowest point in decades.

In Munich, Germany, former President Clinton said the division between Germany and the United States over Iraq could be reconciled.

"I think the way to bring us together again is to look to what we can do together through the United Nations," Clinton said, in Munich to accept a prize for the economic achievements of his administration.

In an apparent reference to the United States and European supporters of its tough line against Iraq -- such as Britain and Italy -- Struck said "others are already set on military action, there are also such views among defense ministers here."

His comments underlined the divisions among the 15 EU nations. While Britain and Italy support President Bush's call for a strong new U.N. resolution threatening force if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein doesn't give inspectors a free hand, Germany and France have urged caution. They have the backing of most smaller European nations.

"We have to avoid a military action in Iraq," said Austrian Defense Minister Herbert Scheibner. "There has to be a political solution."

Where Europeans do find common ground is that any decision on military action must be taken by the U.N. Security Council.

"What the European Union has decided is that the place where this has to be resolved is in the Security Council," EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana said. NATO Secretary General George Robertson also stressed the Security Council's leading role.

"It's not a matter for NATO. It's a matter for the United Nations and we're waiting for a resolution," Lord Robertson said as he joined the EU talks.

Austria's Scheibner appealed for the EU to come up with a unified position, warning continued differences could undermine Europe's efforts to become a stronger player in world affairs.

"It's important Europe reacts with a common voice," he said. "It's not easy ... but there has to be a common line."

Copyright 2002, The Associated Press


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