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France, Other US Allies Criticized in US Congress - 2003-03-13

France and other U.S. allies have come under more sharp criticism from members of Congress for opposing Bush administration efforts to win support for a second Iraq resolution.

The backlash against France continues, with Democratic and Republican party lawmakers lambasting the French position on Iraq.

"The dispute over Iraq, a major current issue, could result in unintended but extensive collateral damage to the overall trans-Atlantic relationship as we have seen in NATO," said Republican Congressman Douglas Bereuter, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe. "There, the goodwill and cooperation which generally prevail in that institution have been harmed, and if left unattended will damage our trade and investment relations, our cultural ties, and the attitudes of our general populations."

Later, Mr. Bereuter was even more direct, adding that he has come to the "reluctant conclusion" that France is trying to marginalize U.S. influence internationally, and in NATO in particular.

Lawmakers also directed criticism at Germany and Russia, as well.

Turkey also was not spared. "I was disturbed by the vote in Turkey's parliament, and I was disturbed by what I saw transpiring," said Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler. "Six decades of incredibly strong relations, from the Korean war through the Cold War, through Turkey's commanding role in the international security assistance force in Afghanistan, all of this unraveling before our eyes."

Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, attributed the Turkish parliament decision to, as she put it, the "newness" of Turkey's new government. She acknowledged "serious differences" with some allies, but said these have been overstated.

"No member of the security council, and virtually no country that has appeared before the security council in the debate in the last couple of days in New York," she said, "not one of them has maintained that Saddam Hussein is cooperating under [U.N. resolution] 1441. That is not the issue, there is broad agreement, and firm agreement, about the importance of 1441 and the requirements of 1441.

U.S. officials are trying to direct attention away from rifts with allies, to cooperation in such areas as the war on terrorism and the expansion of NATO.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, appearing at a different congressional panel Thursday, denied the United States is now isolated politically on Iraq.

"I can point to Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, the Vilnius Ten, the Group of Eight, Japan," he said. "The United States is not in this alone. If one thing is clear, the whole world recognizes that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed."

At the White House, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer had this to say when asked if the long-term strategic relationship with France has been jeopardized.

"No matter what, the United States and France have an important strategic relationship," he said. "We have common values, and the relationship can be strained. It's obvious for everybody to see."

Mr. Fleischer added, however, that he could not predict what the broader impact on U.S. relations with France, or the perception of Americans, could be.