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NATO Leader Plays Down Differences Over Iraq - 2003-01-27

NATO Secretary General George Robertson is playing down differences in the alliance over a possible action against Iraq.

Mr. Robertson, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that no decision has been made on whether an attack will be necessary to ensure that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.

He said it depends on whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein takes the steps necessary to comply with the latest U.N. Security Council resolution. "If Saddam complies with the resolution then there will be no need for military action or for no further action at all," he said. "I think that is the message that needs to go out from here and throughout the world, that nobody wants a war."

He says that NATO will consider the U.N. chief inspectors' report and Wednesday's Security Council debate on the inspectors' findings.

Mr. Robertson dismissed reports of a rift within NATO over what military action might be needed against Iraq. He says the differences of opinion are only about timing.

"Those values are not in question at the moment," he said. "It is only an issue of timing then and that is not a significant problem. But clearly if it goes on too long it might well be."

But NATO chief Robertson says there is absolutely no doubt where the alliance stands. He says Iraq must eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and provide a convincing audit trail to prove it, or face military action.