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Mexican President Fox Favors Peaceful Solution to Iraq Crisis

Mexico's current non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council has thrust that Latin American nation into the middle of the debate over how to deal with Iraq and its possible possession of weapons of mass destruction. Mexican President Vicente Fox is squarely behind efforts to avoid a war.

In recent weeks, President Fox has spoken clearly in favor of finding a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. He says Mexico is against using force as long as there are still other steps that could be taken to avoid violence.

President Fox says he is against the war and in favor of peace. He says Mexico is also against unilateralism and in favor of multilateralism. In this regard, he says his government wants to see multilateral international institutions like the United Nations fortified.

President Fox says he is using his telephone to discuss the Iraq question with other world leaders, including President Bush, with whom he says he spoke "several days ago." He says he spoke with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday and that he plans to talk soon with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in an effort to convince him war should be avoided. Mr. Aznar's government has strongly supported President Bush on the Iraq issue.

Mr. Fox says Mexico has a role to play in this debate because of what he called its "moral authority." He says Mexico can help bridge differences and promote dialogue.

President Fox denies that his stand could provoke a confrontation with the United States, Mexico's largest trading partner. Mr. Fox says he supports the goal of disarming Iraq and preventing terrorism. But he says both goals can be achieved through the United Nations without going to war.

The Mexican public is also against war and newspapers here have been almost unanimous in their opposition to an armed conflict in the Persian Gulf. Even some columnists who are generally supportive of the United States and President Bush's policies have been critical of the U.S. stance on Iraq.

But a protest march here in Mexico City on Sunday drew only around 15,000 people, far fewer than the hundreds of thousands seen in demonstrations in other cities around the world. Domestic issues such as Mexico's impoverished farmers have also drawn larger protest crowds in recent weeks.