PARIS -- The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Russia said Wednesday they will "not allow" passage of a U.N. resolution to authorize war against Iraq.
The three ministers held an emergency meeting in Paris as U.S.-led preparations for war accelerate and the U.N. Security Council prepares to consider a resolution backed by Washington that could open the door for military action.
"We will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes resorting to force," France's Dominique de Villepin said at a press conference alongside his Russian and German counterparts. "Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume their full responsibilities on this point."
When asked whether France would use its veto in the council as Russia has suggested it might do, de Villepin said, "We will take all our responsibilities. We are in total agreement with the Russians."
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov suggested Russia could veto the U.S.-backed resolution. Ivanov also said his country was unlikely to abstain in any Security Council vote on Iraq.
Britain, the United States and Spain have proposed a draft resolution that says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has missed his final opportunity to disarm. Other Security Council members, led by France, say the U.N. inspections are working and want the inspectors to be given more time to hunt for banned chemical and biological arms.
On Tuesday, Ivanov was quoted as saying by the British Broadcasting Corp. that "Russia will not support any decision that would directly or indirectly open the way to war with Iraq." The Russian diplomat has been shuttling between European capitals to discuss the Iraq crisis, meeting in London earlier Wednesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The three ministers said that inspections were producing results and that weapons experts should be given more time to search for arms that Iraq is not supposed to have, as set out in U.N. resolution 1441.
"We see there is progress," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. "I do not see personally how we can stop the process of resolution 1441 and resort to war."
De Villepin said he believes the results of inspections "were more and more encouraging," citing the destruction of Iraqi missiles, information being received about biological and chemical agents and interviews with scientists.
But de Villepin also said Iraq needs to cooperate "more actively" with inspections.
"The inspections cannot go on forever," he said.
The French foreign minister also set out a framework for giving inspectors more muscle, including detailed measures to gage whether inspections are making progress.
De Villepin added that he believes a war in Iraq would increase tensions in the Middle East, create instability and "boost the risk of terrorism."
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