CAIRO Ñ Arab allies of the United States appear unimpressed by the
current division in NATO on whether to defend Turkey from an Iraqi missile
Arab diplomatic sources and analyst expressed confidence that European
members of the alliance would soon join forces with the United States in
protecting Turkey. They said the objections by EU opponents to preparations
for a war against Iraq were largely for domestic consumption.
"There is a huge gap between the debate in [NATO headquarters in]
Brussels and what's happening in the Middle East," a senior Arab diplomat
said. "You can see cooperation by almost all of NATO in the region."
The analysts and diplomats pointed to such developments as the Dutch
supply of two PAC-2 missile defense systems to Israel and the deployment of
German troops and French warships in the Gulf region. Germany and the
Netherlands have already agreed to supply PAC-2 batteries to Ankara.
Mustafa Faqi, chairman of the Egyptian parliament's Foreign Relations
Committee, cautioned against exaggerating the current dispute within NATO.
Faqi stressed that NATO members had been united through two world wars even
before the alliance began.
"The American-European dispute should not be overblown," Faqi said. "It
is a passing phenomenon. They have been involved in a serious dialogue under
the guise of democracy in the West."
Faqi said Germany's opposition stemmed from domestic concerns. France,
has been concerned with protecting European interests.
[On Sunday, the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat reported that President
Saddam Hussein offered to designate U.S. companies as the prime contractors
for all major energy projects in Iraq in exchange for cancelling war plans
against his regime. The newspaper said President George Bush rejected two
messages sent by Saddam that called for negotiations on his offer.]
The Arab analysts said the French and German opposition will result in
renewed U.S. efforts for a Security Council resolution to approve a war
against Iraq. But they said Washington would not allow diplomatic
considerations to delay war plans.
"France does not have the capacity to give an absolute and indefinite
to Washington, or that would entail a long-term confrontation with U.S.
policy that Paris neither wants nor seeks, and which the current
international balance of power does not permit," analyst Bashir Mousa Nafie
writes in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi daily.
On Sunday, Arab foreign ministers convene in Cairo to discuss the
prospect of a U.S.-led war against Iraq. Greece, which holds the rotating
presidency of the European Union, will also attend the meeting.