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.
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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".
Morons. Military buildup ENHANCES diplomatic efforts.