European Union leaders have issued a strong statement demanding Iraq comply with United Nations resolutions on disarmament and warning that weapons inspections cannot go on forever.
The heads of state issued their statement after an emergency day-long meeting of E-U foreign ministers in Brussels Monday to debate a common policy on a possible U-S military strike against Iraq.
The statement says the E-U heads of state still pledge to seek a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi crisis, calling war a last resort.
But the statement did not rule out supporting the use of force. It says only Iraq will be responsible for the consequences if Baghdad does not fully cooperate with the demands of the U-N Security Council and the will of the international community.
A warning to Iraq that "time is rapidly running out" was omitted from the statement after Germany objected. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder later said such words are unacceptable to his country.
The E-U ministers entered Monday's meeting deeply divided on Iraq, with Britain, Italy, and Spain strongly backing the U-S stance and Germany, France, and Belgium fiercely opposed to war.
But E-U diplomats say the leaders, while remaining divided, wanted to avoid any further divisions among European allies.
Earlier Monday, French President Jacques Chirac said he opposes a U-N resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, saying weapons inspections need more time.
After a month of difficult debate, NATO agreed Sunday to send spy planes, missiles, and anti-biological and chemical warfare equipment to Turkey so it can defend itself from any possible retaliation from Saddam Hussein.