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U.S. Faces Hurdles in its Possible War With Iraq - 2003-02-19

Diplomatic and popular roadblocks on the U.S. march to war with Iraq, should United Nations inspections fail to root out weapons of mass destruction. Carolyn Weaver has our round up, from the latest United Nations sessions, to the worldwide peace protests over the weekend.

It’s one step forward, two steps back for the Bush administration’war policy. On Friday, most U.N. Security Council member-states favored giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time.

But following an emergency session in Brussels, the European Union’s foreign ministers issued a new statement saying for the first time that war is a last resort if inspections fail. They demanded that Iraq disarm and warned that weapons inspections can’t go on forever.

The E.U. statement came a day after NATO ambassadors also reached a compromise allowing NATO’s military planners to begin preparing to defend Turkey in the event of a war against neighboring Iraq.

But Turkey delayed its decision about letting U.S. troops use Turkish territory to launch a second front in a war, a critical element in U.S. war planning so far. The U.S. had promised billions in financial aid to Turkey. Turkey now reportedly wants billions more.

Leaders in Turkey and elsewhere are also sensitive to widespread popular opposition to any war with Iraq. Last weekend, huge antiwar protests were held in 350 cities around the world.

Nearly a million protestors gathered in London to urge the U.S. and Britain away from war. The largest demonstration was held in Barcelona, Spain, where officials estimated one point three million protested.

Some peace activists even went to Baghdad, where they say they’ll serve as human shields against any war.

“War is my last choice but the risk of doing nothing is even a worst option, as far as I’m concerned.”

President Bush said the protests had not changed his mind and that the U.S. did not feel another United Nations resolution implicitly approving war was needed.

Still, the U.S. and Britain are considering offering a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council seeking a time limit on inspections. At the EU meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Western nations to avoid turning on each other over Iraq.

"We must keep the focus on Iraq and on its obligation to disarm.”

On the inspections front, a spokesman for the U.N. inspection team confirmed that a U-2 surveillance plane flew its first inspection mission over Iraq Monday with the permission of Iraq. Iraqi scientists also said they’ll agree to private interviews with the weapons inspectors, but only if they’re tape recorded.

The inspectors don’t want the interviews recorded, because they believe that Iraqi scientists are inhibited by fear of Iraq’s government officials listening to the recorded interviews.

U.N. inspections teams in Iraq are also continuing to work destroying mustard gas and artillery shells found in the 1990s at a chemical company northwest of Baghdad.

And war deployments are growing. The tiny country of Qatar is hosting a huge U.S. military presence, including the mobile U.S. Central Command Headquarters near the capital, Doha.

And thousands of U.S. troops are already training in Kuwait, likely to be a key launching pad for any U.S. invasion, though observers say that recent diplomatic developments make any attack on Iraq unlikely to begin before March.