Skip to comments.NATO calls emergency meeting after France blocks Turkey defense plan
Posted on 02/10/2003 12:40:02 AM PST by HAL9000
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France blocks start of NATO military planning to protect Turkey from Iraqi missile attack
By PAUL AMES Associated Press Writer
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Feb 10, 2003 (AP WorldStream via COMTEX) -- France blocked the start of NATO military planning Monday to protect Turkey against the threat of Iraqi missile attack, further accentuating the deep divisions in the alliance over the Iraq crisis.
NATO officials said France formally blocked the move an hour before NATO procedures would have started the military planning automatically at 10:00 a.m. (0900 GMT).
As expected, Belgium backed the French move. Foreign Minister Louis Michel said Sunday it was too early for the alliance to enter into a "war mind-set."
It was unclear if Germany, which had previously backed French and Belgian hesitation had also supported the latest the delay of the planning to send surveillance planes, anti-missile batteries and units specialized in dealing with germ warfare and poison gas attacks to Turkey.
The French move is a blow to the United States which has lobbied hard for more than three weeks for the alliance to start the military planning, backed by 16 of the 19 NATO allies.
The French and Belgian foreign ministers talked on the telephone early Monday and said they would continue to block the automatic start of military planning.
"They had their talks and they will continue to block," said Belgian government spokesman Didier Seeuws of the phone conversation between his minister Louis Michel and his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin.
Faced with the latest delay, Turkey was widely expected to call for urgent consultations under NATO's mutual defense treaty. A meeting of NATO's policy making North Atlantic Council was possible later Monday, officials said.
Diplomats said they expected France and the other holdouts to drop their objections to the military planning faced with a direct request from the Turks under the treaty.
The dispute over the planning has dragged on for three weeks, causing increasing acrimony among the allies.
At a stormy weekend meeting in Munich, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned continued delays in responding to Turkey's request were "inexcusable" and risked undermining the credibility of the alliance.
Rumsfeld intensified his criticism in an interview Sunday with Italy's La Republica newspaper. "Shameful, for me it's truly shameful," Rumsfeld was quoted as saying. "Turkey is an ally. An ally that is risking everything ... How can you refuse it help?"
In France, officials countered that it was too early to start military preparations while diplomatic efforts continued to avoid war. However they stressed they would help the Turks if they judged it necessary.
"If Turkey was really under threat, France would be one of the first at its side," French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters in Munich. "Today we don't feel that threat is there."
Other NATO allies expressed confidence the doubters would rally if Turkey asked for help.
"I trust the alliance will stick together and we will help Turkey," Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said Sunday. "I have a strong belief in common sense."
As well as trans-Atlantic differences, the deadlock has highlighted deep divisions among European allies with the majority, led by Britain, Spain and Italy, backing the tough line against Iraq taken by the United States against France and Germany.
NATO's military commanders say the planning for the limited support for Turkey can be wrapped up within a few days once they get the go-ahead, but actual deployment of the NATO units will need further approval from the 19 allies.
All NATO decisions require unanimous support from the allies.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press, All rights reserved
A meeting of NATO's policy making North Atlantic Council called for 10.30 a.m. (0930 GMT).
Gee France, when will that be .. after Iraq attacks them?
NATO to Meet After France, Belgium Block on Iraq
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO called a special meeting of its 19 nations' envoys for 4:30 EST on Monday after France and Belgium blocked planning for steps to defend Turkey in the event of a war against Iraq, an official said.
"The Belgians have just broken too," an alliance official said, minutes after France "broke the silence" in a procedure under which each of the allies had until 4 a.m. EST to raise objections.
France, Germany and Belgium have argued that preparations for war, even the defense of Turkey, could undermine diplomatic efforts to avert a conflict in Iraq.
Had no member voiced opposition, the 19-member alliance would have started planning to reinforce Turkey's defenses with AWACS surveillance planes, Patriot missiles and special anti-chemical and biological warfare teams.
There was no word on whether Germany had also raised an objection ahead of the deadline, though diplomats had said over the weekend that it was likely to fall into line with the majority of allies.
© Copyright Reuters 2002.
PARIS (Reuters) - Belgium and France will block on Monday a NATO plan to boost Turkey's defenses in case of a war with Iraq, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said.
Michel said two countries, among the staunchest opponents of U.S. plans to launch an attack on Iraq soon, would voice their objections to the plan before a 4 a.m. EST deadline the Atlantic Alliance had set for a decision.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in an interview published on Monday, denounced this opposition as "a disgrace" and said countries blocking the plan to reinforce Turkey's defenses would be condemned by their own people.
"We have decided to break the procedure of silence this morning," said Michel, referring to the NATO procedure by which the plan would go ahead if no member "broke the silence" and voiced objections before the deadline.
Michel said he had just spoken to French Foreign Dominique de Villepin and they had agreed that boosting NATO's defenses would send the signal that war with Iraq had already started.
A NATO official said the alliance had not yet received confirmation of the Belgian or French position.
If they did object, NATO ambassadors would probably meet later on Monday and Turkey could take the unprecedented step of invoking clause IV to call for mutual assistance for a member country under military threat.
"All bets are off -- it's difficult to predict what will happen," he said.
France, Germany and Belgium refused to go along last week with NATO efforts to boost defenses in Turkey, which could be one of the staging points for an attack on neighboring Iraq.
"Certain member countries have blocked this request (to help Turkey). I think this is a disgrace," Rumsfeld said, according to the French text in Le Figaro.
"These countries will be judged by their own people and the other members of the Alliance," he said.
Rumsfeld said Turkey had asked NATO to give it protective measures such as AWACS planes and equipment against chemical and biological weapons.
Diplomats said the standoff at NATO, in itself of little substance, is a glaring symptom of the malaise in relations between the United States and countries that Rumsfeld has labelled "old Europe."
From Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell told "Fox News Sunday" he found the move "inexcusable."
"I hope they will think differently by the time that they have to make a judgment tomorrow," Powell said.
"This is the time for NATO to rally and to stand behind one of our NATO colleagues that may be put at risk, not by the United States but by Iraq. And so I hope that the Germans and the French and the Belgians will think differently about this over the next 24 hours."
Double Franco-Belgian veto with the American requests on Iraq
The secretary-general of NATO George Robertson on February 6 in Brussels
France and Belgium opposed Monday morning to NATO their veto with the American requests for support in the event of conflict in Iraq, by formally notifying their dissension with the secretary-general of Alliance George Robertson, one learned from official sources.
Following this double veto, the ambassadors of NATO were to hold a meeting of crisis in Brussels with 10h30 local (09h30 GMT), announced Alliance.
"the French have just broken silence", declared little after 09H00 (08H00 GMT) a person in charge for NATO, in reference to the procedure known as of "silence" set in motion last Thursday by Lord Robertson to force a decision of Allied on the requests of the United States. A spokesman of the Belgian ministry of the Foreign Affairs confirmed on his side of information of diplomatic source according to which Belgium had made in the same way.
The "procedure of silence" implies that the Member States notify by letter their opposition to a decision, or else this one is automatically regarded as accepted. The head of the Belgian diplomacy Louis Michel had announced as of Sunday that its country, "with France" and perhaps also Germany, would oppose its veto to the American requests for support in the event of conflict in Iraq, which relate in particular to the protection of Turkey.
The American Secretary of State Colin Powell had immediately denounced such a veto like "inexcusable".
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