TOKYO: Asian countries criticised the United States yesterday for saying it may act alone against Iraq. Despite being one of Washington’s staunchest allies, Australia called on President George W. Bush to work through the United Nations to avert war.
“We really do want the US to stick with the UN process and keep promoting the UN as the institution which can disarm Saddam Hussein,” Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.
He said Washington’s tough stance against Iraq was gaining support, including from Spain and Italy.
Indonesian Vice-President Hamzah Haz firmly stated his country’s opposition to an attack on Iraq. He urged Washington to solve the standoff through UN. Indonesian authorities have warned that anti-American street protests are likely should a war erupt.
During bilateral talks in Manila, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and Brunei’s ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, expressed hope “that parties concerned with the situation in Iraq would exhaust all diplomatic and peaceful means in addressing the issue.”
Many other governments waited uneasily to see if a report by UN weapons inspectors, who would have been out later yesterday, might prove to be the final straw for Washington. The report was expected to deliver tough assessments, but falls short of confirming US claims that Iraq is rearming.
China had yet to respond officially to Powell’s comments, but President Jiang Zemin told French President Jacques Chirac by phone on Sunday the Iraq issue should be resolved within the framework of the UN.
China has previously said the UN weapons inspectors should be given time to do their work and has expressed concern about the military build-up around Iraq.
Beijing is in a difficult position given its own worries about outside intervention in Tibet and in its heavily Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang –two places straining for more autonomy from the central government.
Japanese officials had no immediate comment on Powell’s remarks. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said yesterday in a telephone conversation with Bush two days ago he stressed the importance of a peaceful solution and reiterated Japan’s support of a multilateral effort.
Though a strong supporter of Bush, Koizumi is also in a sensitive position with the Japanese public. – AP
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