LONDON - President Bush's latest jab at Saddam Hussein didn't get much public
support from allies Thursday, and Russia challenged his view that the world would
benefit if the Iraqi regime is toppled.
A day earlier, Bush said the United States is in no rush to go to war with Iraq, but he repeated his view that Saddam is a threat to world peace and should be removed from power.
The comments seemed aimed at calming speculation about a military confrontation, but the reaction Thursday underlined the deep-seated doubts and opposition that Washington faces in its stand against Iraq.
In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov called the idea of an attack on Iraq "unacceptable," and he said his country did not agree Saddam should be ousted. On Monday, Russia confirmed it was talking with Iraq about a 10-year trade agreement.
Even Britain, Washington's closest ally in confronting Iraq, held back. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reiterated Thursday that military action remained an option, but he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the government's policy was to pressure Saddam into allowing the resumption of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq.
Many U.S. allies say they are not convinced the Iraqi leader poses an imminent danger.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has said he would not send troops to what he called an "adventure" in Iraq, and Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum said it was "very unlikely" Canada would participate unless Bush provided stronger evidence of an Iraqi threat. Germany and Canada both sent soldiers to Afghanistan.
Other European allies have been noncommittal, while Middle Eastern states that gave crucial help in the Persian Gulf War have said they oppose or have serious doubts about fighting Saddam now.
Some counseling against an attack warn it could undermine worldwide support for the American-led fight against international terrorism and destabilize the Middle East. Some say it would be foolhardy to start a new war in the region while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grinds on.
In Britain, a recent poll said half the people surveyed did not want the nation's military to participate in an attack on Iraq.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is widely seen as Bush's strongest supporter against Iraq, but he has said it is premature for any decisions about the need for a war and the idea faces strong opposition within his own Labor Party.
Washington and others say Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. leaders contend Saddam would not hesitate to use them.
Support from most European allies has been tepid.
Italy will allow the use of its airspace but will commit troops to an attack only if it gets proof Saddam is producing nuclear weapons, Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino said.
French President Jacques Chirac has said an attack could only be justified if authorized by the U.N. Security Council. But he also has warned Iraq it must let U.N. weapons inspectors back in.
Opposition to an attack is strong in the Middle East, where support from Arab states was key to the 1991 Gulf War.
U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said after a tour of the region that the leaders of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon "have all been really vocal about us not taking any action against Iraq."
Jordan, while a close American ally, has critical trade ties with Iraq and opposes a war. King Abdullah II has called for dialogue between the United Nations and Baghdad.
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said his country would not be used as a staging area for an attack and urged a diplomatic solution.
In NATO member Turkey, leaders have publicly opposed a war, but the country is in desperate need of foreign loans to recover from a financial crisis and may have little choice but to back any American action.
Israel has voiced support for an attack. An aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said there was evidence Iraq was speeding up efforts to produce biological and chemical weapons. The Jewish state, which was hit by 39 Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War, is preparing to be targeted again if there is a war, and says it will strike back if that happens.
In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, increasingly regarded as a moderate Muslim voice, has warned that a U.S. war with Iraq would fuel extremism.
"It will only provoke a great hatred," he said last month. "Certainly, it
will make it difficult for us to show the moderate face of Islam."
© Copyright 2002 The Associated Press