President Bush's State of the Union address appeared to change few minds in Europe today on the issue of Iraq, but some European leaders who have been reluctant to go to war against President Saddam Hussein praised Bush's promise to share more intelligence information.
"I welcome the fact that [Secretary of State] Colin Powell is to share information, to share intelligence, with the United Nations next week," Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, told reporters in Brussels. "The center of gravity should be the U.N."
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, told a radio interviewer this morning that France welcomed the U.S. decision to share intelligence about Iraqi capabilities, saying it would help in evaluating whether Baghdad is violating U.N. weapons prohibitions.
He reiterated the French position that any resort to force against Iraq should be decided by the U.N. Security Council. "France has taken a clear position since the beginning, and the majority of the world community not only understands this position but supports it," he said.
The Iraq issue continues to divide Europe. Some countries, including Britain, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, have tended to support the U.S. side.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said Bush's speech "set out very eloquently why we need to take action to ensure that Saddam is disarmed," according to the Associated Press. "The case needs to be made over and over again."
The Italian newspaper Il Giornale, run by the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, reported that the leaders of Britain, Italy and five other European countries would publish a joint declaration Thursday supporting Bush and the decision to use military force in Iraq.
Separately, Italy said today that it had given the United States limited permission to use its bases during a war with Iraq. Defense Minister Antonio Martino told Parliament that U.S. aircraft could land at Italian bases to refuel and for other "technical" reasons.
Other countries, led by France and Germany, remain opposed to military action.
At NATO headquarters in Brussels, that reluctance showed as the alliance ambassadors on the policymaking North Atlantic Council met and again did not approve U.S. requests for help in the event of war, according to reports from the Belgian capital. France and Germany have led that opposition, saying it is too soon to be talking of mobilizing forces while diplomacy continues.
European foreign ministers meeting this week in Brussels failed to find a common policy toward Iraq, despite the hopes of George Papandreou of Greece, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.
"We have to be absolutely, positively realistic about that," said Christina Gallach, a spokeswoman for Solana, the EU foreign policy chief. "We are 15 countries, not one country. We have 15 parliaments, not one parliament."
She said "it's true that among European leaders, there are differences of tone undoubtedly, and differences of emphasis on leaving options open." But she added that all European leaders broadly agreed on the need for the U.N. inspectors to be given additional time to work, and that the Security Council be central to the process and to any eventual decision to resort to force.
In Moscow, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Alexander Yakovenko, reiterated Russia's position that diplomatic measures were needed to resolve the crisis, the Associated Press reported.
Speaking a day after President Vladimir Putin said Russia might toughen its stance on Iraq if Baghdad hampered weapons inspectors, Yakovenko said that "as before, we see no grounds for any use of military force."
In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda called Bush's speech "a forceful, strong message" and said disarming Iraq was a concern of the whole world.