The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anti-war trio to block US decree

Paris/Doha, March 5 (Reuters): France, Germany and Russia teamed up today to block a US-British draft resolution for a war to disarm Iraq, saying they will not allow it to be passed in the UN Security Council.

Flanked by his counterparts from Russia and Germany, French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin said: “We will not allow the passage of a planned resolution which would authorise the use of force.”

The three ministers held a strategy session in Paris a day after the US said it was confident of securing the nine votes needed at the 15-member Security Council to pass the resolution.

US President George W. Bush seemed undeterred by the trio and pressed on with consulting allies and leaders about the UN draft resolution, which could be pushed to a vote next week.

“He (Bush) is confident in the end of the ultimate outcome here,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

The US and Britain have more than 250,000 troops poised in the Gulf region along with dozens of warships and 600 strike aircraft for a possible military campaign to disarm Iraq and oust President Saddam Hussein.

Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov underscored the split in the five permanent members of the Council, saying China was also on the side of those who want to slow any rush to war. Each permanent member — the US, Britain, France, China and Russia — can veto a resolution. Both Paris and Moscow have left that option open.

Asked whether France was ready to use its veto, Villepin said: “We are totally on the same line as Russia.” Ivanov said in London yesterday that Moscow would not abstain in a vote on Iraq and could use its veto.

France, Germany and Russia have argued persistently that UN weapons inspectors, who returned to Iraq in November after a four-year hiatus, should be given more time.

UN arms inspectors have decried Iraq’s lack of cooperation in disarming but noted a major development last week when Baghdad began destroying al Samoud 2 missiles.

The missiles were deemed illegal for breaching UN range limits. Iraq destroyed nine more today, bringing to 28 the number scrapped. Baghdad had about 120 of the missiles, with about 50 deployed.

The Iraq crisis has split the international community and among the most divided have been the Arabs. Bitter enmity between Iraq and Kuwait erupted in a slanging match today at an Islamic summit in Qatar meant to unite the voice of the world’s one billion Muslims against war.

Saddam’s right-hand man, Izzat Ibrahim, denounced the representative of US-ally Kuwait as a “monkey” and a “traitor” and the closing statement by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference failed to even mention the Iraq crisis.

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