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Coalition of the Willing Provides Formidable Force

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2003 – The number of countries willing to be part of disarming Saddam Hussein gives lie to the charge that U.S. action is unilateral, according to State Department officials.

There are 30 countries who have agreed to join the United States in the "coalition of the willing" to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said March 18.

More than 15 other countries have privately told the United States that they support the position, Boucher said, but for internal political reasons cannot be open about their support.

Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the efforts of foreign leaders, especially British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, in facing the Iraqi threat. He said he has spoken to leaders around the world who understand the threat and are willing to face consequences at home to face it.

"I've seen this repeatedly in the course of my career when war was at hand, and it takes strong leaders who understand the danger and understand the importance of dealing with an issue like this," Powell said March 18 during an interview with international wire service reporters. "It takes those kinds of leaders to come together and stand tall as they are now standing tall in this coalition of 30 plus 15 more who we will we know in due course."

Powell said the United States is pleased to be working with those leaders and, he hoped, "They will all be able to do everything that's possible within their means to support the coalition militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically."

He said that even as the ultimatum to Saddam Hussein expires, the United States is still working with countries for their support.

"There are things that Turkey could do in the matter of military action in their future," he said. "My colleagues at the Defense Department still feel that there are things Turkey can do some distance in the future. You know, I don't want to be precise, but we would not shut down, in the near future, our opportunities to get greater cooperation from Turkey."

Countries that support the coalition are Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

"Each country is contributing in ways that it deems the most appropriate, Boucher said.

Some of the countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia, are providing direct military support to the coalition. Others, such as Japan, have said they will aid in post-Saddam reconstruction. Still others are providing access, basing or overflight rights, he said.

Some countries cannot contribute at all, but want to be counted in the effort against Iraq.

"Remember, that is the fundamental of this, that these are countries who have all stood up and said it is time to disarm Iraq, and if Iraq doesn't do that peacefully, we need to be prepared to do it by whatever means are necessary," Boucher said.

Pentagon officials said this new coalition is more like the one assembled for Afghanistan than for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

"The fact that 45 countries are involved helps point out what we've been saying all along -- that U.S. actions are not unilateral," said Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Mike Humm.

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