Bush faces struggle to win allies
LONDON, England -- U.S. President George W. Bush has begun what diplomats are calling a "scare and prepare" strategy to broaden support for the possibility of military action against Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein.
But it will be a long struggle to persuade all of Europe to back him and his closest ally, the UK's Tony Blair, in any invasion.
Bush's speech to the U.N. pressed some key buttons for European doubters, just as Blair's address to Britain's Trades Union Congress had done two days before.
Above all they will have been pleased by his readiness to direct efforts, at least for now, through the U.N. -- even if Bush threw down a challenge to the organisation to take action rather than offering an invitation.
Charles Kennedy, leader of the UK's Liberal Party, said on Thursday: "The more the president is able to recognise the international dimension of this, the better it is for all concerned."
Europeans have been particularly alarmed about a possible invasion of Iraq destabilising the whole of the Middle East and they will have been pleased by a renewed commitment from the U.S. president to engage in a drive for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, with the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state as one of the goals.
There will be pressure now though for Bush and Blair to come up with a factual dossier on the state of Saddam's alleged efforts to acquire and deploy weapons of mass destruction.
Bush's recitation of the evils of Saddam and his regime at the U.N., while effective, was pretty familiar to governments worldwide.
Blair has promised he will produce a dossier at about the time parliament is recalled to discuss Iraq on September 24.
But government insiders are already trying to downplay expectations in terms of new revelations. The 'killer fact' is proving elusive.
From early responses in Europe it seemed that Bush had given a further push to the gathering momentum among European governments towards offering support in the end. But it will remain dependent in most cases on there being a new U.N. mandate for action.
French President Jacques Chirac, who has insisted it is not for Bush and Blair to decide on any military response but for the U.N., is backing the idea of a U.N.-imposed deadline.
Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister currently doubling as his country's foreign minister, has said that force cannot be ruled out.
But the traffic has not been all one way. Edmund Stoiber, the CDU (conservative) challenger to Gerhard Schroeder in Germany's election, to be decided on September 22, has now joined Schroeder in ruling out any German participation in military action against Iraq.
Meanwhile Hans Eichel, the German Economic Minister, has warned of the dangers of an "explosion " in oil prices if there is any invasion.
That fear, and worries about a radicalising of Arab street opinion which would hamper the worldwide coalition against terrorism, are two of the remaining European concerns about military action against Iraq yet to be tackled by Bush and Blair.
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