BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – European leaders, trying to end their bitter dispute over Iraq, warned Saddam Hussein yesterday he faces a “last chance” to disarm, but gave no deadline and said U.N. weapons inspectors must have more time to finish their work.
The statement came at the end of a European Union emergency summit on the crisis with Baghdad. Diplomats insisted they had healed the rift over U.S. calls for military action. But significant divisions remained, with some states saying the United Nations could still disarm Iraq peacefully.
“War is not inevitable. Force should be used only as a last resort. It is for the Iraqi regime to end this crisis by complying fully with the demands of the Security Council,” the 15 nations said in the joint declaration.
That was seen as a setback for Germany, which has opposed war under any circumstances.
“Baghdad should have no illusions. It must disarm and cooperate immediately and fully. The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance,” the leaders said.
While that position will cheer the United States and Britain, which are urging military action, there was still strong support for continued, possibly increased U.N. weapons inspections. The statement gave no indication of how much longer inspections should continue, but said they could not go on forever without Iraqi cooperation.
“They must be given the time and resources that the U.N. Security Council believes they need,” the declaration said. “However, inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi cooperation.”