By Charlie Keenan


French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin gestures while speaking during a press conference at the EU Council building in Brussels on January 27. France is against using military force in Iraq.
(Photo: Virginia Mayo/AP Wide World)

The U.S. will soon propose a second resolution to the UN Security Council, giving Iraq a deadline for disarming. If Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not meet the deadline, he will face immediate military action.

"Our goal is peace, and achieving peace requires resolve and action by free nations," said U.S. President George W. Bush in a recent speech.

Many in the international community disagree. Leading the opposition to swift military action are France and Germany, two of America's closest allies. They are calling for more time and more inspectors.

"Inspections are producing results," says Dominique de Villepin, France's Foreign Minister. "The option of inspections has not been taken to the end."

Who Has the Power

France's opinion carries considerable weight because it has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. That seat gives France the power to veto any American effort to obtain international approval for an invasion. UN approval isn't required for the United States to invade Iraq, but it would hurt America's standing in the international community to proceed without full support of the UN. Also, most opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support military action against Iraq, but only with UN backing.

The U.S. also faces resistance from Russia and China. With France, three of the five permanent seats on the council are against immediate military action. Of the total 15 seats, so far 11 support more time for the inspectors. Nine votes are needed for action against Iraq.

"The inspectors must continue their inspections," says Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. "This is a position shared by the overwhelming majority of states in the world, including within the Security Council."

The 15-member European Union (EU) has also pushed for peace. "War is not inevitable," the EU members said in a statement issued recently. "We want to achieve this peacefully."

Diplomatic resistance to the United States also has surfaced in NATO, a military defense alliance among European and North American countries.

France, Germany, and Belgium recently spoke out against providing military defense equipment for Turkey, the NATO member that borders Iraq to the north. The deadlock was resolved when Germany and Belgium backed off under a firestorm of negative publicity about their reluctance to defend Turkey.

France has less power in NATO. It pulled its military forces out of NATO's combined military command in 1966, giving up much of its ability to sway opinion.

U.S. to Act

The U.S. will act against Iraq with or without a formal coalition of nations from the UN, NATO, or the EU, says Bush.

The President said he would prefer a peaceful settlement, but does not believe it's possible. An agreement is even less likely now that Hussein believes world opinion is on his side.

"We have done what was asked of us and the whole world sees that," said one Iraqi official.

Weapons inspectors report that despite increased cooperation from Iraq last week, it is now holding back. Iraq has not allowed private interviews with scientists or provided proof that chemical and biological weapons have been destroyed.

"What we've seen is that without pressure, Iraq is not going to cooperate with the inspectors," said lead weapons inspector Hans Blix. Whether that pressure will include an end date for military action may be decided by March 7, when Blix makes his next report to the UN Security Council.