France, Russia, Germany Vow to Block Resolution

The French, German and Russian foreign ministers said Wednesday that their governments would "not allow" passage of a U.N. resolution authorizing war against Iraq.

"We will not allow a resolution to pass that authorizes resorting to force," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a press conference in Paris. "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, as Russia has suggested it might do, de Villepin said, "We will take all our responsibilities. We are in total agreement with the Russians."

The three ministers had set up the hastily arranged meeting amid quickening U.S.-led preparations for war and a Friday Security Council meeting to hear progress reports from inspectors scouring Iraq for banned weapons.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, suggested Russia could veto a new U.S.-backed resolution seen as paving the way to war in Iraq. Ivanov also said his country was unlikely to abstain in any Security Council vote on Iraq.

Ivanov met with French President Jacques Chirac before the talks with his fellow foreign ministers. The Russian minister was greeted at the presidential Elysee palace by de Villepin and entered without talking to reporters. The palace said there were no plans for Chirac to meet German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

Britain, the United States and Spain have proposed a draft resolution that says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has missed his final opportunity to disarm.

The United States and Britain claim Iraq has refused to destroy its chemical and biological weapons, as ordered by the United Nations, and military action will probably be necessary to disarm Saddam.

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 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," 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.

In replying to journalists' questions, de Villepin said that war would increase tensions in the Middle East, create instability and boost the risk of terrorism."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.