This is A Big Deal

Here’s the joint French, German, and Russian statement:

ARIS, March 5 — Following is the text of a joint statement by Foreign Ministers Dominique de Villepin of France, Ivan S. Ivanov of Russia and Joschka Fischer of Germany, as translated by the French Foreign Ministry:

Our common objective remains the full and effective disarmament of Iraq, in compliance with Resolution 1441.

We consider that this objective can be achieved by the peaceful means of the inspections.

We moreover observe that these inspections are producing increasingly encouraging results:

The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles has started and is making progress.

Iraqis are providing biological and chemical information.

The interviews with Iraqi scientists are continuing.

Russia, Germany and France resolutely support Messrs. Blix and ElBaradei and consider the meeting of the Council on March 7 to be an important step in the process put in place.

We firmly call for the Iraqi authorities to cooperate more actively with the inspectors to fully disarm their country. These inspections cannot continue indefinitely.

We consequently ask that the inspections now be speeded up, in keeping with the proposals put forward in the memorandum submitted to the Security Council by our three countries. We must:
Specify and prioritize the remaining issues, program by program.

Establish, for each point, detailed time lines.

Using this method, the inspectors have to present without any delay their work program accompanied by regular progress reports to the Security Council. This program could provide for a meeting clause to enable the Council to evaluate the overall results of this process.

In these circumstances, we will not let a proposed resolution pass that would authorize the use of force.

Russia and France, as permanent members of the Security Council, will assume all their responsibilities on this point.

We are at a turning point. Since our goal is the peaceful and full disarmament of Iraq, we have today the chance to obtain through peaceful means a comprehensive settlement for the Middle East, starting with a move forward in the peace process, by:

Publishing and implementing the road map;

Putting together a general framework for the Middle East, based on stability and security, renunciation of force, arms control and trust building measures.

I’m “Ambivalent, but on Balance Against, Bear” on a war against Iraq. The main risk–at least the plausible main risk–that Saddam poses is the chance that he will sell or give whatever technologies of mass destruction that he posesses to those who could bring them into the US or other regions that might ignite his ire. To date, however, there is no credible public information that Saddam has either the ability or inclination to do so. Thus, a rush to war seems substaintially premature. What I find wrong with the war concept is that whatever evidence exists, and I’m sure there’s much that is not public, is not convincing to any of our NATO allies except Britain. On the other hand, Tony Blair, at great personal political risk, is on board–and on every other issue he’s more Clintonesque than Reaganesque.

So we’re in the position where those with much to lose by supporting the President’s plan (Blair has much to lose) do support Bush, while those with much to lose (France, Germany, Russia) by opposing the war do, nevertheless, oppose the war. But, if in doubt, don’t start a war seems like a reasonable proposition, particularly when starting the war jeapordizes NATO alliances.


And what about North Korea?