Overseas Opinions Not Changed by Speech

President Bush's call for greater pressure on Iraq won guarded support in Asia and Australia on Tuesday, but his threat of war failed to overcome skepticism in Europe, where most nations are deeply concerned by the prospects of war.

Britain was the exception in Europe to the prevailing lack of enthusiasm for Bush's tough line on Iraq. Prime Minister Tony Blair said he shared "the same analysis" of the threat posed by Iraq and that both countries wanted the United Nations to make clear its determination to disarm Iraq.

Bush's speech Monday night rounded up much of the administration's case for an assault on Iraq, with Bush calling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein a "murderous tyrant."

He said Saddam may be planning to attack the United States with biological or chemical weapons and could have a nuclear bomb in less than a year. The speech was seen in part as an attempt to rally reluctant allies abroad.

But Russia and France, which like the United States hold veto powers on the U.N. Security Council, underlined that they still oppose Washington's efforts fors a U.N. resolution imposing strict demands on Baghdad for weapons inspectors and threatening use of force against Iraq.

In Russia, Deputy Foreign Ministry Yuri Fedotov, although not reacting directly to Bush's speech, told the Interfax news agency that the resolution proposed by the United States was disingenuous and contained demands that Washington was "well aware" could not be met.

Fedotov said Russia supported France, which has proposed a solution that would let Baghdad try to comply with existing U.N. resolutions. Russia would not support any resolution that triggered an automatic use of force, Fedotov stressed.

Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe said Bush's call for an international coalition to force Saddam to accept weapons inspectors indicated Washington was weighing France's approach.

"President Bush said a military operation is neither imminent nor inevitable," Juppe told RTL radio.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said armed confrontation with Iraq would be a "great tragedy." However, he added that Baghdad would have to "fulfill its obligation without exception."

Across the Middle East, Arabs saw Bush's speech as an indication that the United States was determined to attack Iraq.

Iraqi media kept to their regular programming Tuesday, so ordinary Iraqis relied on radios to hear the speech.

Ahmed Taha, an Iraqi university student, said he wished Bush had used "new words like 'dialogue' and 'peace' rather than his old words like 'war' and 'accusations.'"

In Baghdad, secondary school teacher Dia'a al-Na'eimy, 55, joined dozens of others at a blood bank, saying her donation was a way of demonstrating support for Saddam in his confrontation with Bush.

"Our presence here today is a response to Bush's speech and it is a strong and decisive response. We will protect our leader with our blood," she said.

In Afghanistan, U.S. troops at the Bagram Air Base who watched Bush's speech on Iraq said they were ready for another war, but had doubts about doing it without world support.

"I agree with the president that something has to be done," said Senior Airman George Bonney, 27, of Portsmouth, Va. "But I don't like going it alone. I don't think that's a good idea at all."

Thousands of U.S. troops are stationed here to help search for remnants of the Al Qaeda terrorism network, which Bush tried to link with Iraq in his speech.

Bush had more luck in Asia, where initial reaction from Australia and Japan was supportive.

"Saddam Hussein wouldn't even be contemplating letting weapons inspectors back into Iraq if he didn't fear the military threats from the United States," Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. "We think the speech is a very measured and considered speech. It puts the pressure in this debate very much on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein."

Australia has been one of Washington's staunchest allies in the campaign against Saddam, and Prime Minister John Howard has not ruled out sending Australian troops to help a U.S.-led strike aimed at toppling the Iraqi leader.

Doubts over Bush's hardline approach were also heard in the largely Muslim nation of Malaysia.

"We are for the U.S. if it is a force for good but we cannot support the U.S. if it pursues the course of unilateralism with scant regard for world opinion," said Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia's youth and sports minister.

"Maybe Saddam is evil, and he must not be allowed to develop weapons of mass destruction, but the U.N. must be given a chance to explore a peaceful solution," he told delegates at the East Asian Economic Summit being held in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Japan supports Bush, but has also been reserved on the use of force.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's spokeswoman, Misako Kaji, said Tokyo welcomed Bush's confirmation in the speech that it remains important to pursue a U.N. Security Council resolution.

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, more than 100 Muslim youths, waving anti-war banners and posters, staged a peaceful protest outside U.S. Embassy.

"Stop War", "No More Blood" and "Stop campaign for US' invasion of Iraq," were among the banners unfurled during the rally.