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European Leaders Express Support for U.S. Position on Iraq

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2003 – Eight European leaders strongly supported the United States in its quest to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction in letters appearing today in The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London.

The signatories are Czech President Vaclav Havel, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose-Manuel Durao Barroso, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Hungarian Prime Minster Peter Medgyessy, Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

U.S. State Department officials said the United States welcomes the "clear, firm and unequivocal" message from the leaders. "It is proof that other like-minded nations see Iraq as a threat to peace and stability," officials said.

The European leaders spoke of the bonds tying Europe and the United States together and said the Sept. 11 attacks in America were attacks on the ideals and values of the West.

"In standing firm in defense of these principles, the governments and people of the U.S. and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their convictions," the leaders wrote. "Today more than ever, the transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom."

The letters call for solidarity with the United States in face of the Iraqi challenge. The leaders said the relationship between the United States and Europe "must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security."

The leaders said they recognize the necessity of unity before the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious," they wrote.

The leaders stated that Saddam Hussein's regime and its weapons arsenal represent a clear threat to world security. The United Nations recognized that threat and passed Security Council 1441 to give Saddam Hussein one last chance to comply with the will of the world.

The leaders said Europe and the world must remain united in insisting that Iraq be disarmed. "The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully," they wrote. "Our strength lies in unity."

U.S. officials said they appreciate the show of support.

French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have had a very public disagreement with the United States over Iraq.

France has threatened to exercise its veto in the Security Council should that body look toward war to disarm Iraq. France has not vetoed a Security Council measure since 1956. France is one of the five veto powers on the Security Council. The others are Russia, China, Great Britain and the United States.

Schroeder has said Germany, which also has a Security Council seat, would not vote for war.

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