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Belgium Vows to Continue to Block NATO Plan to Defend Turkey in Event of War - 2003-02-09


Belgium says it will continue to block the NATO alliance from planning for the defense of Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq.

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel says his country will again block NATO military planners from drawing up measures to protect Turkey against potential attacks from Iraq.

In a Belgian television interview, Mr. Michel said he expects the veto to be supported by France and Germany.

The three NATO allies have blocked the move for the past three weeks, arguing that drawing up plans for Turkey's defense could undermine diplomatic efforts to avert a conflict in Iraq. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has called their attitude inexcusable.

In an attempt to break a three-week-old deadlock within NATO over planning for Turkey's defense, the organization's secretary-general, George Robertson, last week invoked a so-called silence procedure. Under the procedure, any of the alliance's 19 members has until Monday to object to Turkey's request for assistance.

In announcing his country's intention to block the Turkish request, Mr. Michel argued that such a move is premature, and that U.N. weapons inspectors need more time and resources to get their job done.

The move by Belgium comes as German Defense Minister Peter Struck confirmed a German magazine report that his country and France will present a joint plan to the U.N. Security Council Friday that is aimed at disarming Iraq, without resorting to war.

The magazine, Der Spiegel, reported that the plan includes sending in U.N. peacekeepers, tripling the number of weapons inspectors and turning all of Iraq into a no-fly zone.

Mr. Struck, in an interview with German television Sunday, would say only that, under the plan, U.N. troops would back up the weapons inspectors. He also said Germany, which has steadfastly maintained that it will not take part in any war against Iraq, might take part in the proposed U.N. peacekeeping force.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in Munich for a conference on international security, says his government could support the Franco-German plan. Der Spiegel reports that France and Germany discussed the plan with Russia and China, but not with the United States.

Mr. Struck, who met with Mr. Rumsfeld Saturday at the Munich conference, told the U.S. official he was not yet ready to discuss the plan with his American counterpart.

That reluctance is likely to further infuriate Washington, which is already angry with France and Germany over their reluctance to back U.S. threats of military action against Iraq, if it does not eliminate what Washington says is its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

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