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 Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Iraq - The Countdown To War

Full text: UN security council resolution 1441 on Iraq

A third British MP has quit in protest against Prime Minister Tony Blair's Iraq policy.The resignation of mid-ranking British interior minister John Denham joins that of senior government minister Robin Cook and junior health minister Lord Philip Hunt.One other MP who was expected to quit, International Development Secretary Clare Short, has decided against the action

Despite mounting anti-war protests in the country, the South Korean government backed President George W. Bush's 48-hour war ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

French President Jacques Chirac says the United States takes a "heavy responsibility" with its ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq or face war. "This unilateral decision is contrary to the wishes of the (U.N.) Security Council and the international community which wants to pursue disarmament," said Chirac in a statement. The statement was issued hours after U.S. President George W. Bush ordered the Iraqi leader to leave his country within 48 hours or face war.

Australian Opposition Leader Simon Crean has condemned the government for recklessly committing troops to a US-led war on Iraq, warning it made Australia more of a terrorist target.Mr Crean said Prime Minister John Howard had joined forces with an immoral minority by committing Australia to war without the sanction of the United Nations."For the first time in the history of this country Australia has joined as an aggressor in war," he said.

Turkey's President, Ahmet Necedet Sezer, has indicated the Government should take steps to allow thousands of American troops to move into northern Iraq from Turkish soil.

The Vatican said on Tuesday countries that decide to wage war on Iraq without a global consensus must take responsibility before God and history -- making clear the Pope would not endorse their actions."Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.Navarro-Valls' comment was the Vatican's first official reaction to Washington's ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to go into exile within 48 hours or face war. Both the British and Spanish prime ministers have backed Washington

Chief UN inspector Hans Blix has spelled out exactly what Iraq must do to prove it has disarmed and avoid US-led military action, even as war looms. In a report to the Security Council yesterday, Blix said if Saddam Hussein cooperates, the dozen key remaining disarmament issues could be resolved in months. France, Russia and Germany have seized on Blix's presentation of the disarmament tasks to call for a council meeting tomorrow to set a "realistic" timeline to complete the tasks. But with efforts to disarm Iraq peacefully apparently at an end, the exercise appeared futile to many diplomats

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin denounced the United States today for planning to wage war against Iraq, saying such a conflict was in clear violation of international opinion and risked "serious consequences" for the Middle East and the world

Poland would send up to 200 soldiers to take part in a U.S.-led war with Iraq, President Aleksander Kwasniewski announced Monday. "We are ready to use a Polish contingent in the international coalition to contribute to making Iraq comply with the U.N. resolutions," Kwasniewski

Senior Defense and other U.S. officials confirmed that intelligence reports indicate that Saddam Hussein's troops are armed with chemical munitions. "The information is raw … and hard to confirm ... but we are seeing -- using different methods -- that Saddam Hussein has armed troops south of Baghdad with chemical weapons," one official said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday his government would commit 2,000 military personnel to any U.S.-led strike aimed at disarming Iraq.

The U.S. government raised its terrorist threat level to orange or "high risk" last night even as President Bush was delivering his speech on Iraq

President Vladimir Putin today called for a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi crisis and said a U.S. military attack would have the "gravest consequences."."We stand for resolving the problem exclusively through peaceful means," Putin said at a meeting with Muslim religious leaders at the Kremlin. "Any other option would be a mistake. It would be fraught with the gravest consequences. It will result in casualties and destabilize the international situation in general."

A Yemeni shot dead a United States citizen and a Canadian employed at a Western oil firm in the country on Tuesday and then killed himself, an official said.The official said that the two men, along with another Yemeni man, were attacked inside the unnamed company in the oil-rich Marib province.US firm Hunt Oil is the only oil firm operating in Marib.

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo says she is rethinking plans to hold joint US military exercises in Jolo, the restive island in the Southern Philippines. The BBC's Orlando de Guzman explains the roots of anti-Americanism in the region

A group of international peace activists has disputed a claim by Israel that an American who was trying to block the path of an Israeli bulldozer in a Gaza refugee camp was crushed accidentally.The International Solidarity Movement said yesterday that Rachel Corrie was in the line of vision of the bulldozer's driver on Sunday as she stood in his path to try to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Rafah camp.

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