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France, Germany Launch Effort to Prevent War with Iraq - 2003-01-23

Germany and France Thursday reaffirmed their opposition to war with Iraq, with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder saying the two European nations will do all they can to prevent a conflict. Speaking in Berlin, Chancellor Schroeder called for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis if possible, and said war "must never be inevitable."

The German leader made the remarks while sitting next to French President Jacques Chirac at a ceremony in the German chancellery to mark the 40th anniversary of a friendship treaty between the former opponents. Hundreds of French and German students were on hand for the event.

Chancellor Schroeder said that he and the French leader agree that every peaceful effort has to be made to ensure that Iraq complies with U.N. Security Council resolution 1441. The resolution warns that Baghdad faces serious consequences if it does not comply with measures to dispose of weapons of mass destruction.

French President Chirac said Wednesday war is not inevitable. He spoke before a ceremony in Versailles marking the French-German friendship treaty.

As one of the five permanent members on the Security Council, France has the power to veto any resolution approving military action. Germany has already said it would not vote for any Security Council resolution seeking authority for war on Iraq. Germany is not a permanent member of the Council, and therefore does not have the power to veto a resolution, but it chairs the Security Council in February.

Wednesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the German-French position a problem, but said that many other countries in Europe back the U.S. position on Iraq.

Chancellor Schroeder was re-elected in September on a wave of anti-war feeling, after speaking out against a German role in an Iraq war. The action angered President Bush and strained German-American relations. After the election, Mr. Schroeder softened his position and tried to repair relations.