Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that, if it becomes necessary for the United States to use force against Iraq to get rid of that country's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the world will support it. But, Mr. Wolfowitz says the declaration Iraq is expected to give the United Nations on its weapons program by Sunday will not, in itself, trigger a decision by Washington to take military action.
Mr. Wolfowitz was in Brussels seeking support from Washington's NATO allies for a U.S. strike against Iraq should U.N. weapons inspectors' fail to get complete cooperation from the government of President Saddam Hussein.
NATO leaders agreed last month to take what they called effective action to help disarm Iraq but stopped short of explicitly endorsing military strikes.
On Wednesday, after meeting with the alliance's executive body, Mr. Wolfowitz told reporters he is confident of allied support should military action become necessary.
"The most important thing to me is the large number of allies who have indicated that they will be with us, no matter what," he said. "And I think that message should get to Baghdad. Saddam Hussein should understand that we already have a strong coalition assembled, and I believe that that coalition is only going to grow. If it does become necessary to use force, we will have the world with us."
Although he did not name the allies that would back possible U.S. military action against Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz said earlier in Ankara that he is confident of Turkey's support. But a day after Turkey's foreign minister said his country will open its airbases to U.S. planes for a potential attack against Iraq, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's office issued a statement saying Turkey has not made a final decision on the issue and has not committed itself to anything.
Mr. Wolfowitz says that, regardless of what the U.N. weapons inspectors find or do not find, Iraq must disarm.
"Let me emphasize the issue here is not inspections. The issue is disarmament," he said. "It is Saddam Hussein's job to come forward with a full and complete disclosure of all the programs that he has. Then, what inspectors can do is to help to verify that we've had a full disclosure. He knows what he has. He has to disclose it. And he has to get rid of it."
But what if Iraq says it does not possess weapons of mass destruction when it submits its declaration to the U.N. Security Council?
"If we get a dishonest statement, that is clearly going to have to be a major consideration of non-cooperation," he said.
Still, Mr. Wolfowitz says such a declaration will not, by itself, trigger a decision by Washington to take military action. He says President Bush will decide how to react based on a wide range of information and on close consultation with U.S. allies.