UNITED NATIONS – After four days of speeches at a U.N. session dominated by the Iraq crisis, the United States was still without support Sunday for unilateral military action against Iraq except from Britain.
Nations large and small want the United Nations to find a solution -- and to determine any consequences if Iraq refuses to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return.
President Bush made it plain Saturday that the United States is willing to take Iraq on alone if the United Nations fails to "show some backbone" by confronting Saddam Hussein, taking an even tougher line than he did in his speech Thursday to the U.N. General Assembly. "Enough is enough," Bush said.
For many of the 190 nations in the world body, speaking in the opening days of the 57th General Assembly session, the time for diplomacy has not been exhausted. Several warned, however, that time was running out for Iraq and urged it to comply with Security Council resolutions quickly.
"I formally and solemnly ask the Iraqi authorities to implement unconditionally the resolutions adopted by the United Nations," Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said in a speech Sunday. "Respect for our organization, respect for what we are collectively and individually, is the only way of avoiding recourse to force. So I would ask the Iraqi authorities to seize this last opportunity."
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo urged the United States and Iraq "to exercise caution and restraint" and resolve the matter in accordance with the U.N. Charter.
Arab countries have come out against an attack on Iraq, a fellow Arab nation, arguing that a war would destabilize a Middle East already embroiled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Arab ministers took the lead in pressing Iraq to accept U.N. weapons inspectors without delay and avoid a harsher U.S.-backed resolution.
Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher of Jordan, Iraq's neighbor and main trading partner, called on Iraq to accept "the immediate and full implementation" of all U.N. resolutions.
"If these conditions are met, the people of Iraq, who have been suffering for too long, would be saved from military action which will aggravate that suffering," he told the assembly Sunday. "The aforesaid formula would also spare the entire region from the dire consequences of military operations."
Other Muslim nations also warned of the dangers of military action.
Malaysia's deputy prime minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said an attack on Iraq without credible evidence of a threat from Baghdad would only "swell the ranks of the discontented in the Muslim world."
In his speech Thursday, Bush said "action will be unavoidable" if Iraq did not disarm. But the Malaysian countered that "the international community cannot be made to assume that military intervention against Iraq, in the pursuit of both disarmament and regime change, is inevitable and that the United Nations is only being engaged as a matter of course."
Only Britain appeared to implicitly support Bush's tough stand. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw never referred directly to the use of force in his speech Saturday, but he made clear Britain believes there must be consequences if Iraq refuses to admit inspectors.
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who met with Bush at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md., on Saturday, backed the president's call for a response to Iraq's flouting of U.N. resolutions -- but he did not support unilateral U.S. action.
"We must make use of all diplomatic and political means available to redress this situation, but if things do not change substantially it will be necessary to act within the framework of the United Nations to safeguard global security from a real threat," Berlusconi told the General Assembly on Friday.
Germany reiterated its opposition to military force and called for intensified U.N. pressure on Iraq to admit inspectors and reach a political solution.
Many countries emphasized the United Nations' role in addressing the crisis.
"This should be resolved through political means by the United Nations," said Laotian Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.
Rene R. Harris, the president of Nauru, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, said, "For any action to be successful it must be done through and by the Security Council, and with multilateral support."
Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Lafer, said that "the use of force at the international level is only admissible once all diplomatic alternatives have been exhausted."