Memo from Germany, France, Russia says Iraq war unjustified

Informal document seems intended to counter new U.S. resolution at U.N.


PARIS - France, Germany and Russia declared yesterday that a war against Iraq is not justified at this time and that international inspections to rid Iraq of its most dangerous weapons are working.

The declaration, contained in an informal "memorandum" drafted by France, seemed intended to counter a U.S.-led resolution introduced yesterday in the United Nations Security Council stating that Iraq has not complied with demands that it cooperate fully with weapons inspectors.

The memorandum will be distributed at the United Nations, senior French officials said, adding that the document also has China's support.

The memo is certain to deepen the rift between the United States and Europe over how to force President Saddam Hussein to rid Iraq of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs and ballistic missiles.

"The military option should only be a last resort," the document says. "So far, the conditions for using force against Iraq are not fulfilled."

The memorandum adds that there is "no evidence" that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction or capabilities, although it concedes that "suspicions remain." The memo says U.N. inspections have "just reached their full pace," are "functioning without hindrance" and "have already produced results."

The document calls for tougher inspections, including precise deadlines for Iraq to disarm; an increase in the number of inspectors; the creation of mobile units to inspect movable targets such as trucks; better aerial spying on Iraqi sites; and better processing of the spy data. Under this proposal, the chief inspectors would report on Iraq's progress every three weeks.

In an apparent effort to head off criticism that the three-country initiative is a stalling tactic to avoid a decision on going to war, the declaration says inspections "cannot continue indefinitely," adding: "Iraq must disarm. Its full and active cooperation is necessary."

The memorandum coincided with a meeting yesterday in Brussels, Belgium, of the foreign ministers of the European Union, in which there was no effort to hide the deep divisions created by the Iraq crisis. Yesterday's clash came only a week after European Union leaders patched up their differences with a statement telling Iraq that it has a final chance to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Yesterday, the French foreign minister, Dominque de Villepin, urged the United Nations to give Baghdad a timetable to disarm. Britain's foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said Hussein's guilt has been proved and that Britain wants the Security Council to vote on a resolution in "up to two weeks, maybe a little more" in support of war.

De Villepin said a second resolution would be "a mistake" while arms inspections are making progress.

"There are some countries that think that today it's important to table a second resolution," de Villepin told reporters. "We think, for our part, it isn't necessary or useful, since we are resolutely in a time of inspections. That is why we have said we could not accept this second resolution, which would be clearly in the framework of preparing a military intervention."

In a sharp critique of the U.S.-British initiative, he said a new resolution would not win support in the council.

"There is not, clearly, a majority for a second resolution," de Villepin said. He said the new French-drafted memorandum is aimed at "making the work of the inspectors concrete and credible."

The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, also called the U.S.-British resolution unnecessary and a violation of the consensus reached by European Union leaders last week.

"The political situation in the E.U. has not changed since we found this compromise, and I advise everyone to stick to it," he said.

But Straw rejected the idea of reinforcing the inspections and setting detailed deadlines for Hussein to comply with U.N. weapons inspections.

"You don't need to treat him like a child; he is not a child," Straw said. "He does not need to be provided with a list of things he knows he's got to do in any event."

France's opposition to a second resolution in the Security Council is curious because President Jacques Chirac had proposed a two-stage plan that could lead to U.N. authorization of military force against Iraq.

In an interview in September, Chirac laid out a plan for a first resolution that would require Iraq to allow the return of U.N. inspectors. A second resolution, he said, would deal with "a possible attack on Iraq" if it did not fully cooperate.

He said at the time that France "is not indicating in advance what its position might be," but added: "As usual, we will help draft the resolution."

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