Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he expects Britain to help in the event of a war with Iraq. He made the comment after comments suggesting the United States might go it alone.
Mr. Rumsfeld says he has every reason to believe Britain will make what he terms a significant military contribution in the event President Bush decides to go to war with Iraq.
Mr. Rumsfeld maked the comment in a written statement after earlier appearing at a news briefing to signal U.S. willingness to invade Iraq without British forces if the U.N. Security Council fails to approve a new resolution.
"I think until we know what the [U.N.] resolution is, we won't know the answer is to what their [British] role will be," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "And to the extent that they are able to participate, in the event that the president decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed. To the extent they're not, there are workarounds."
Asked then to clarify whether the Bush administration would consider going to war without combat assistance from its closest ally, Mr. Rumsfeld said that was an issue President Bush would be addressing in the days ahead.
His comments reportedly sparked diplomatic confusion and a round of urgent telephone calls, prompting the release of his written statement.
In that document, Mr. Rumsfeld said he was "simply pointing out that obtaining a second United Nations Security Council Resolution is important to the United Kingdom and that we are working to achieve it."
A poll released Tuesday shows just 19 percent of Britons would support going to war against Iraq without U.N. authorization, and one-quarter of the British public would oppose a war under any circumstance.
Britain has dispatched some 30,000 troops to the Gulf to join the 250,000 U.S. military personnel poised for a possible attack on Iraq.