British and Egyptian officials agreed Tuesday that they would prefer to settle the Iraq issue peacefully. But during a visit to Cairo by Britain's foreign secretary, Egyptian officials again expressed opposition to any new U.N. Security Council resolution that threatens the use of force against Iraq.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed on the necessity, if at all possible, to resolve the Iraqi crisis through peaceful means. He said, they agreed Iraq must be free of weapons of mass destruction, and there must be an end to what he called its defiance of the United Nations.
The foreign secretary met with the Egyptian leader Tuesday on the fist stop of a regional tour that will include stops in Jordan, Kuwait and Iran. Mr. Straw is seeking support for the U.S. and British position against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
With British support, President Bush is seeking a tougher U.N. Security Council resolution providing for the potential use of force if Iraq does not fully cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.
Mr. Straw also met with Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. Following the meeting, Mr. Moussa said there is no urgent need to launch military action against Iraq. Last month, he warned such action would, as he put it, open the gates of hell in the Middle East and beyond.
All Arab states have said they oppose military action against Iraq.
The Egyptian foreign minister suggested President Bush is trying to rewrite the rules by seeking a new Security Council resolution and said the important thing is for the inspectors to resume their work in Iraq. He said Egypt remains opposed to any attack on Iraq for the purpose of changing its government.
Iraq has said it will allow the return of weapons inspectors under existing U.N. guidelines that exempt some presidential palaces from unconditional inspection, but that is currently on hold while the United States and Britain seek a tougher U.N. resolution.
Foreign Minister Maher said the United Nations should work on the assumption that the Iraqi government is willing to let the inspectors into the country.
U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998 following a series of disputes over the conduct of the inspections.