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France, Germany, Russia Call For More Inspections to Avoid Iraq War - 2003-02-11

France, Germany and Russia have issued a joint declaration calling for strengthening U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq. French President Jacques Chirac says there is currently no justification for going to war.

Mr. Chirac met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The declaration calls for more weapons inspectors in Iraq and more resources for them to track down suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Chirac says the three countries are determined to do everything possible to achieve the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. Their joint declaration says war should only be a last resort.

The French president, who appeared at a joint news conference with Mr. Putin, said "nothing today justifies a war," and the Middle East does not need another conflict.

The initiative backed by the three countries would double or triple the number of weapons inspectors, give them a significant amount of time, perhaps months, to finish their work.

Presidents Chirac and Putin said the inspections are producing results. They said their common position is backed by many other members of the United Nations Security Council.

It is not supported by the United States, Great Britain and some other European countries.

The importance that France attached to the talks with Russia was underlined by Mr. Chirac's decision to break protocol and meet Mr. Putin at the airport. But Mr. Chirac insisted that there is no rupture in relations between France and the United States, which has called the French plan a diversion.