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Iraq

World reaction: On TV, at summit, Blair backs war

[AP photo]
Prime Minister Tony Blair says on TV: "Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea."
Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 21, 2003

Before his nation and his colleagues on the continent, Britain's leader reinforced his support for the war against Saddam Hussein. Canada's prime minister sought restraint in comments about the United States as European leaders, while not retreating from their opposition, looked ahead to a postwar Iraq. Opinion in Asia was divided, while South American nations expressed opposition to the war.

BRITAIN: Blair: 'This threat is real'

Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday night told the British people he had ordered troops into action against Iraq to help rescue the world from "a new threat of disorder and chaos" posed by terrorist groups and dictatorial regimes with weapons of mass destruction.

"My judgment as prime minister is that this threat is real, growing, and of an entirely different nature than any conventional threat to our security that Britain has faced before," Blair told the nation in a five-minute televised address, prerecorded before he headed to a European Union summit in Brussels.

The House of Commons, which just two days ago was the scene of an unsuccessful revolt against military action, rallied around Blair, whose approval ratings have begun to climb again in polls after a long and steady decline. But antiwar protesters took to the streets of London and other major British cities, pledging to shut down traffic and businesses to force British withdrawal from the fighting.

The mood even among government leaders who have spearheaded British involvement in the American-led effort was somber. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, emerging from Thursday morning's Cabinet session, told reporters he understood that Iraqi civilians would suffer.

"There will be innocent civilians killed in this military action and we can't use euphemisms to cover up that reality," he said. "But what we say is that the number of Iraqi lives saved by this military action will far exceed the number of people who sadly will be killed.

"It is a terrible calculation to make, but it is one we have to make if there is to be proper justification for military action."

CANADA: Chretien: Respect U.S.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien asked members of his Cabinet and Canadians in general to stop making anti-American comments as the United States leads an assault on Iraq that Canada has declined to join.

"I said to the Canadian people and I said to the members of my caucus yesterday that in a situation like that, we have to respect the decision of the Americans," Chretien told the House of Commons on Thursday. "They made their decision according to their own judgment. They have respected our own judgment that is different to theirs."

Chretien made his comments at a time of increasing criticism here of the United States, Canada's closest ally and most important trading partner. Public opinion is strongly against the war and some Canadians worry about long-term harm to relations with the southern neighbor.

The critics included one of Chretien's ministers, who told reporters that President Bush let "the world down by not being a statesman" and had not let diplomacy work at the United Nations.

"I think it is really regrettable and unfortunate that he has made this decision when the whole world is crying out for peace," Herb Dhaliwal, the minister of natural resources, told reporters.

EUROPE: Plans for postwar Iraq

FRANCE: "France regrets this action taken without the approval of the United Nations," French President Jacques Chirac said. "I hope these operations are as fast as possible, with the least fatalities, and that they do not lead to a humanitarian catastrophe."

But Chirac appealed for solidarity among the nations to deal with the aftermath of the war. "We must join with our allies and the whole international community to deal together with the challenges that await us," he said.

GERMANY: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who provoked Washington's wrath by his rejection of all military action, said in a televised speech that "the wrong decision was taken." Yet he added: "The differences over the war are clear differences of opinion among governments, not deep-seated differences between friendly peoples. The substance of our relations with the United States of America is not endangered."

Even though Germany continued to condemn the war -- with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer calling it "the worst of all solutions" -- the Germany government indicated it would join Europe and the world in reconstruction.

"We have to take care of the actual situation on the ground and our primary concern is not a concern on legal questions, but to help the people who have been suffering a long time and are suffering even more now in military action," said Gunter Pleuger, German ambassador to the United Nations.

RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was being carried out "against world public opinion, against the principles and norms of international law."

But on Thursday evening, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, appeared to voice greater pragmatism. Speaking with reporters, he said Russia and America "remain partners, not opponents, despite the war in Iraq."

"We must continue dialogue with the United States," he said.

VATICAN: Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the papal spokesman, said the Vatican was "deeply pained" by outbreak of hostilities.

The Vatican lamented the fact that Baghdad "did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal by the pope himself, which asked for the country to disarm," he said in a statement. But he also deplored the interruption of negotiations toward a peaceful solution.

Cardinal Pio Laghi, who met with President Bush on March 5 as part of the pontiff's campaign against the war, said the pope was praying for peace.

"The pope has spoken and has screamed and it was his duty to do so," Laghi said. "Yet this unacceptable position has been taken on."

ASIA: Division of opinion

CHINA: The foreign ministry, in a statement, said Beijing rejected the use of force, but recalled that it had consistently urged the Iraqi government to fully comply with Security Council resolutions to disarm.

The Xinhua news agency reported that China's former foreign minister, Tang Jiaxuan, said in a telephone call with Secretary of State Colin Powell that China sought an immediate halt to military operations "so that the Iraq issue can be returned to the current track of a political solution."

JAPAN: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi backed the military strike, despite widespread opposition to the war among his countrymen, saying that Baghdad had "not acted sincerely" toward the United Nations.

PHILIPPINES: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, describing the war as a "reality that we expected," said the Philippines is "part of the coalition of the willing."

SOUTH AMERICA: Wide opposition

BRAZIL: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva condemned the American position as an act of "disrespect to the United Nations and the rest of the world" that lacks moral legitimacy.

"All of us want for Iraq not to have atomic weapons or weapons of mass destruction," he said in Brasilia. "All of us want a world living in peace, but that does not give the United States the right to decide by itself what is good and what is bad for the world."

ARGENTINA: Under President Carlos Menem, Argentina was the only Latin American country to participate in the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, but President Eduardo Duhalde, announcing the cancellation of a trip to Europe because of the conflict, made it clear that would not be the case this time.

"We are against this war, and we are not going to support it or take part in it," he said.

CHILE: As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Chile had participated in efforts to avoid a war, even offering a compromise plan of its own last week in a failed attempt to prevent unilateral American action.

"It is a tragedy," said Gabriel Valdes, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations. "Another tragedy is going to begin now."

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