Mike Trickey and Janice Tibbetts
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien says Canada will not be part of the American-led "coalition of the willing" in a war against Iraq unless the United Nations authorizes military action.
After weeks of dodging questions from opposition leaders about Canada's position, Mr. Chrétien ended the fence-sitting and told MPs yesterday that if the Security Council refuses to authorize a war, the United States will have to do without the help of its closest ally and largest trading partner if it decides to pursue a military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein.
"We have not been asked and we do not intend to participate in a group of the willing," he said in reply to a question from Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe.
"If (the Americans) want to go there all alone, they can go there all alone, but we say they must go with the authorization of the United Nations.
"If they don't, the international system of peace and security will probably be more destabilized than it need be."
Mr. Chrétien implored the U.S. to act within the framework of the UN last week at a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations in Chicago, saying that is the best way to ensure American and global security in the future.
"I am convinced that, given a proper chance, the United Nations will fulfil its obligations to the world community, that it will back up its principles with resolve," he said at the time.
Mr. Chrétien made the decision not to participate in an American-led coalition, which so far has about 20 members, after speaking on the weekend to six leaders of allied nations who are evenly divided on how to best force Iraq to comply with UN Resolution 1441 demanding that it disarm and to fully co-operate with inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction.
The leaders of France, Mexico and Russia counselled giving weapons inspections more time, while the leaders of Australia, Italy and Spain expressed their willingness to join the Americans if the UN does not authorize the "serious consequences" expressed in 1441 should Iraq not comply.
French President Jacques Chirac says his country will use its veto power to block any Security Council resolution authorizing war, but U.S. President George W. Bush says a new resolution, while "helpful," is not necessary.
"We don't need a second resolution. It's clear this guy (Saddam) could even care less about the first resolution. He's in total defiance," he told reporters at the White House.
UN diplomats are working on a new resolution, a draft of which is expected to be circulated today or tomorrow.
Canada has not been clear on what sort of military contribution it could make in the event of war, especially after committing last week to deploying about 3,000 troops to Afghanistan over a one-year period starting this summer. Such a large deployment would leave few soldiers available for other tasks, though Canadian naval and air forces are in the Gulf area now as part of an international anti-terrorist operation. Strategic analysts say it is likely those forces would simply be retasked with responsibility for the war in Iraq.
International Development Minister Susan Whelan said yesterday that Canada is considering a new request from the UN for contingency planning for humanitarian aid for Iraq. Canada has already pledged $1.7 million as part of the UN's original $37-million package. The UN now says an additional $123 million is needed and is seeking about $4 million from Canada.
American plans for a potential two-front war with Iraq also hit a speed bump yesterday.
The Turkish parliament had originally planned to vote to accept the possible deployment of at least 20,000 American troops, but Prime Minister Abdullah Gul backed off the promise.
"We are not going to the parliament tomorrow," the prime minister said on Monday. "We have some concerns on economic and political issues."
Mr. Bush remained confident a solution to the issue could be reached, declaring that Turkey had "no better friend than the American government."
Mr. Bush also made it clear he would not be stopped by anti-war protests around the world on the weekend and allies who are pressing him to wait until he has the firm backing of the United Nations.
"War is my last choice, but the risk of doing nothing is an even worse option," said Mr. Bush. "I owe it to the American people to secure this country. I will do so."
Mr. Bush intends to take a proposed second resolution against Iraq to the UN, but it probably will not be until at least next week. Although the wording of his draft proposal has not been publicly finalized, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it would be "simple and straightforward."
In Europe, skeptical allies are pushing for extending UN weapons searches in Iraq and France insists that Iraq must be given time to disarm.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the strongest ally of the U.S., said he still wants to see another UN security council resolution before any military action is taken.
Mr. Bush, mindful of the enormous pressure Mr. Blair faces at home, praised the prime minister as a "courageous leader" who "understands that Saddam Hussein is a risk."
Edited by Godeskian, 19 February 2003 - 05:17 PM.