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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France, Russia Call for Compromise, UN Talks

PARIS -- France, Russia and Germany made a joint effort Saturday to avert war in Iraq, calling for emergency UN talks early next week and suggesting there could be compromise on time limits set for inspectors to disarm Iraq.

The move came on the eve of a summit between U.S. President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Washington's allies in a failing effort to win UN approval for war.

France, Russia and Germany issued a joint statement in which they rejected the war option and proposed emergency talks among foreign ministers from the 15 UN Security Council countries in the wake of a report on arms inspection work set for Tuesday.

They said Iraq should fully cooperate with UN inspectors.

"All indications show that this could be done in a rapid timeframe and in respect for the rules fixed by the Security Council," the statement said.

"France, Russia and Germany, backed by China, presented proposals with a view to achieving this goal by establishing a hierarchy for key tasks on disarmament and setting a tighter timeframe," it added. "Suggestions have been made on his issue by other members of the Security Council. It is on the basis of these efforts that the unity of the Security Council can be preserved."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said the joint declaration was aimed at preserving the unity of the UN Security Council.

"Now for all of us lies a special responsibility not to allow in this critical moment a schism," he told Interfax.

Fedotov repeated Russia's opposition to military action "at the present time," saying "there is no basis for stopping inspections and for the rash use of force in relation to Iraq."

He said a report this week by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix would provide a guideline for future inspections, which he said should be "compressed, but able to be fulfilled."

Russia and France have the power to veto any further UN resolution allowing for war to start, and say they would use it. Germany is also a member of the Security Council but not one of the five permanent members with veto rights.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin went on a media offensive to back up the appeal headed by Paris.

"Why go to war when you can still get the same results and peaceful disarmament with the inspectors on the ground," he said in an interview on France 2 television.

"France is prepared to compromise, on the basis of a very tight timetable [for inspections], but not on an ultimatum and not on automatic recourse to force."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reacted sharply to Villepin's comments.

"This confirms that France has made a strategic decision that they are determined not to implement [UN Security Council] Resolution 1441, to which they signed up," a Foreign Office spokesman quoted him as saying.

That resolution, passed last November, threatened "serious consequences" if Iraq failed to disarm. But there is disagreement about whether 1441 would be sufficient in itself to allow an attack on Iraq, without a further UN vote.

In an interview Villepin dismissed the theory that a U.S.-led war waged without UN approval would amount to the demise of the United Nations.

"Even in that case there would be a need for the United Nations. A country can win a war but no country can build peace on its own," he said in an interview to be published in Sunday newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

(Reuters, AP)