Iraq has mocked America's plans for a military campaign to displace Saddam
Hussein, saying that Washington is mistaken if it thinks the task would be a replay
of its successful ousting of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Baghdad, which in recent days has veered between outright defiance of the United
States and signaling an interest in a diplomatic solution, may have been emboldened
by the crumbling of support for American action in many European capitals.
In Europe, leaders such as President Jacques Chirac of France have given fresh
voice to concerns that the US would violate international law if it took military
In the US, Vice-President Dick Cheney had taken the lead in presenting America's
case for removing President Saddam by force. He was backed by Donald Rumsfeld,
the Defense Secretary, and President George Bush.
But, in Beirut yesterday, the Iraqi Vice-President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, poked
fun at the notion that America would prevail. "We don't want to compare the two;
Iraq is not Afghanistan," he said "I believe that the US administration is convinced
Iraq's more defiant statements are primarily aimed at rallying Arab opposition
to an American assault. Mr Ramadan added he was working with other Arab governments
to forge a common position critical of Washington at a meeting of Arab League
ministers next week.
However, Iraq also maneuvered to take advantage of growing schisms in the EU
and even within Britain, the only likely ally of the US in the event of an attack.
Tony Blair faces deepening resistance within his own party to a policy of supporting
President Bush. A recent survey showed almost two-thirds of Labour Party constituency
leaders are strongly opposed to any such alliance between London and Washington.
Also notable were comments from President Chirac, who called the possibility
of unilateral US action "worrying" France and other countries are arguing the
US should not act without a fresh UN resolution. Gerhard Schröder, the German
Chancellor, urged President Bush to take note of European hesitation. "If consultations
are meant seriously, they must not just be about the how and the when but also
on the question of whether this is done at all," he said yesterday.
Vice-President Ramadan also peppered his comments this week with hints of Iraq's
willingness to pursue a diplomatic solution. He argued that a deadlock between
Iraq and the UN on the return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors was being blocked
by Washington. Iraq is seeking new talks on a return of the teams.
"We believe dialogue is still continuing, but the freezing and suspending of
it, and the failure to set dates for new sessions, came as a result of pressure
by the US administration," Mr Ramadan said.
However President Bush spoke on Thursday about the need to remove the Iraqi
leader. He said: "We owe it to our children, we owe it to our grandchildren to
make sure that the world's worst leaders do not develop and deploy the world's
© 2002 lndependent Digital (UK) Ltd