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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Despite Hostile Public, U.S. Can Count on Allies

VIENNA, Austria -- U.S. President George W. Bush's "coalition of the willing" is a conflicted alliance: Its political leaders want to help disarm Saddam Hussein by force, but many of their people want no part of it.

"I'm sure Saddam is a bad guy, but you don't need an army to swat a fly," said Peter Illes, 49, a parking ticket inspector in Hungary, where three out of four people say they are against an U.S.-led war and their government's pledge to help.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday that by his count, 30 nations consider themselves coalition members and 15 others have quietly promised support.

However, some of the countries Powell named, such as Japan, have said they will offer only post-conflict help. Others, such as Spain and the Netherlands, have offered military support but not combat troops. And some, such as the Philippines, have not yet approved basic support such as U.S. overflights. France, Germany and other key allies are notably absent from the coalition. They were part of the 34-nation alliance that drove Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991.

Powell's list also included countries like anti-war Belgium, which said it was allowing use of its territory for military transports mainly to show Washington that it is important for nations to work together.

A U.S.-led force of about 300,000 troops, roughly 1,000 combat aircraft and a naval fleet is in place in the Persian Gulf region, ready to attack Iraq on Bush's orders. Britain, the United States' chief war partner, has sent 40,000 troops and its largest naval deployment since the 1982 Falklands War.

Despite fierce public opposition in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday his government would commit 2,000 military personnel already on standby in the Middle East, along with 14 Hornet fighter jets, transport ships, aircraft and other firepower.

Poland said it would commit 200 troops. Turkey said Wednesday it would ask parliament to grant the U.S. military the right to use Turkish airspace but would not immediately ask lawmakers to allow in American troops.

Italy has continuously expressed its solidarity, though it has no plans to send troops and surveys suggest 75 percent of Italians oppose a war. Parliament on Wednesday approved a government request to authorize the use of bases and airspace.

Spain, the United States' staunchest ally after Britain, seemed unlikely to play a significant military role. Stung by public opposition, the government Tuesday ruled out sending any troops but said it would provide military personnel and equipment in a support capacity and offer warplanes to defend Turkey.

The Netherlands has contributed three Patriot missile batteries and 360 men to operate them and defend Turkey in case of an Iraqi counterattack. But Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Dutch troops are out of the question "given the resistance in society."

The NATO alliance, which is deeply divided over the prospect of war, will not play a direct military role in a strike on Iraq but has sent units to defend Turkey.

Powell's roster contained some surprises.

France, scorned by Americans for blocking a UN resolution authorizing force, made it onto his "B" list for opening its airspace under treaty obligations and offering more help if Hussein uses biological or chemical weapons.

But Bulgaria, which has stood by the United States in the Security Council and offered a 150-member noncombat unit, wasn't listed among Powell's top 30. Afghanistan was, even though it has said it won't serve as a staging area and President Hamid Karzai has questioned the wisdom of going to war. His government conceded Wednesday that using force to disarm Iraq was "justified."

Some of the most spirited, albeit largely symbolic, offers of help have come from unlikely countries. Tiny Albania has offered a small noncombat army unit of 70 soldiers. It has also made available its airspace, land routes and territorial waters.

Bush dashed off letters of thanks to Albania and neighboring Macedonia this week, assuring them that America "will not forget those who have stood with us."

Romania has opened its airspace, contributed 278 noncombat nuclear, biological and chemical decontamination specialists, military police and mine-clearing units, and offered the use of strategic ports on the Black Sea.

Romania is among eight countries behind the former Iron Curtain that have lined up behind Washington -- partly out of gratitude for American support during the Cold War, and partly because they expect U.S. backing in their quests to join NATO and the EU. "It's not about supporting an intervention, as we don't even have the means to do it. It's about meeting certain obligations as allies," President Ion Iliescu said.

Other supporters from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union include Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Uzbekistan.