A top European Union official says the best way to deal with Iraq is to build a broad coalition to force Baghdad to accept weapons inspections and to work through the United Nations.

EU Foreign Relations Commissioner Chris Patten says the international community must keep pushing for full Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions, which demand the unconditional return of arms inspectors.

He told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, that the U.N. Security Council has charted the way forward in dealing with this problem and every nation should work within the framework of the United Nations. Mr. Patten said the coalition approach that was used in the 1991 Gulf War has the best chance of succeeding.

"We must recognize that efforts to force Iraqi compliance are more likely to succeed if they are backed by a coalition of concerned parties as broad and effective as that which was put together with great diplomatic finesse in 1991," he said.

Mr. Patten also said that while there is strong suspicion that Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, no clear evidence has emerged. Mr. Patten is the latest of several senior European leaders to speak out against unilateral action on Iraq.

Top U.S. officials have recently played down the value of United Nations arms inspections, and argued publicly for preemptive action to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. U.S Vice President Dick Cheney has said that time is running out and the United States will take whatever action is needed to defend its security.