Eight European leaders rally behind US over Iraq

They call on Europe to stand united with US to disarm Iraq of WMD, Britain says any war with Iraq not about oil. LONDON – The leaders of eight European countries, with France and Germany notably absent, have called on Europe to stand united with Washington in its efforts to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, in a letter published in Thursday’s Times newspaper, The leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic said that the United Nations must force Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to give up weapons of mass destruction, and warned that the credibility of the United Nations was on the line.

„Our strength lies in unity,” their letter to the British newspaper said, adding that Monday’s UN weapons inspectors’ report confirmed Saddam’s pattern of „deception, denial and non-compliance.” The letter was signed by Britain’s Tony Blair, Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, Portugal’s Jose Manuel Barroso, Hungary’s Peter Medgyessy, Poland’s Leszek Miller, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen and President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. They insisted that Saddam and weapons of mass destruction were a clear threat to world security. „We must remain united in insisting that his regime is disarmed. The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully.” The letter added: „The Security Council must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its resolutions. „We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result. „We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its responsibilities.” Meanwhile, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon insisted Thursday Britain would regret going to war with Iraq, while any military would not be over oil in an interview with the pan Arab Al-Hayat newspaper. „We would prefer to see Iraq properly cooperating with the United Nations weapons inspectors, and indeed, with the United Nations process in general,” Hoon was quoted as saying. „But can I also make clear that we have no interest in Iraq’s oil. The United Kingdom in fact is a net exporter of oil. We have our own oil. And certainly do not import oil from Iraq,” Hoon told Al-Hayat – published in London and printed and distributed in several Arab countries. Hoon refused to say whether British troops would be directly involved in the seizure of Iraqi oil fields in the event of military conflict. Citing official sources in Washington, The Sunday Times said US President George W. Bush wants Britain to lead a post-war multinational force that would guard oil fields as well as secure large cities, patrol borders and search for hidden caches of biological and chemical weapons. Hoon said he would „regret” military against Iraq but said: „I am confident that when we do argue that case, if it is necessary, that the British public will support it.” He said he was not surprised that the British public had not supported a war because „we’ve not invited them to do so.” „What we have invited them to do is support our position in defence of the international community’s decisions through the United Nations. Opinion polls show that they overwhelmingly do support that position.” According to a poll in The Sunday Times, only 26 percent of Britons are convinced that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is sufficiently dangerous to justify war.