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Powell: US Has Support of 45 Countries on Iraq - 2003-03-19

Secretary of State Colin Powell says 45 countries are supporting the United States in the coalition that may soon go to war against Iraq.

Thirty were listed by the State Department Tuesday. What is being termed the "Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq" is said to rival in size the coalition that fought the Gulf War in 1991.

The Bush administration has been saying for weeks that if it came to war with Iraq, the United States would have a sizeable number of coalition partners. And in a talk with reporters, Secretary Powell was specific about numbers for the first time, listing 30 countries as members of the coalition and saying that 15 others are committed to take part, but not yet ready to be publicly named.

Only the United States, Britain and Australia are known to have committed offensive forces. But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says many others are offering logistical support, chemical warfare de-contamination teams, or like Japan committing to post-war humanitarian aid:

"As we get closer to the moment of truth, people have to make their decisions, they have to go to their parliaments, things naturally sort of become more public," he said. "But I do think there's a very substantial group of countries that are supporting the need to disarm Iraq at this moment, not just with their rhetoric or by signing up for a list but also by their concrete actions, whether it's deployments, or over-flights, basing or starting to get ready for the post-conflict situation."

The 30-member coalition list made public by the State Department includes a number of central and eastern European countries, some from Africa, Latin America, central and east Asia, but none thus far from the Arab world, even though several Gulf states are openly providing basing for U-S forces.

The alliance that fought the Gulf war in 1991 is generally considered to have 31 members, though spokesman Boucher said it is too early to draw comparisons with the emerging Iraq disarmament coalition.

The list released here includes Turkey and Mr. Powell told reporters he is confident of Turkish cooperation in one form or another, even as that country continues to debate the issue of U-S military access to Turkish territory.

"The United States withdrew a six billion dollar aid offer to Turkey earlier this month, after a measure authorizing U.S. forces to use eastern Turkey as a staging ground for Iraq operations failed to get an absolute majority in the Turkish parliament," he said.

But Mr. Powell said there are still things Turkey can do, such as allowing U.S. over-flights, and he suggested that if it does decide to assist the U.S. military, at least a portion of the aid package might be revived.

The Secretary also said, in the talk with wire-service correspondents, that U.S. war plans have been drawn up with the aim of minimizing civilian casualties and making any conflict as brief as possible.

He said he saw "no point" in attending a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday, at which chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix will make another report on Iraq, even though several other countries including France and Russia are expected to send their foreign ministers.