Solana welcomes US offer to share intelligence

European Union foreign affairs chief Mr Javier Solana has hailed a US offer to share intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of…

European Union foreign affairs chief Mr Javier Solana has hailed a US offer to share intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction with the United Nations and said the world body's role remained key.

"I welcome the fact that Colin Powell is to share information, to share intelligence with the United Nations," he told reporters in Brussels.

"The centre of gravity should be the United Nations," he said. It was too early to say whether a second resolution would be needed to authorise the use of military force against Iraq, he added.

In his annual State of the Union address, US President George W. Bush promised to deliver new intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons programmes and vowed to use the full force of the US military to disarm Iraq if needed.


Earlier, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin welcomed Mr Bush's plan to provide new intelligence.

"I welcome this American decision, we have been asking all those who have special information to give it to the inspectors so they can do their work in the best conditions," he told RTL radio.

France is one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.

The European Union has been divided on its view of Mr Bush's hard line towards Iraq and many EU states have been alarmed by the prospect of a unilateral US decision to attack.

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said any military action against Iraq must be decided by the UN Security Council.

"It is important that the decision remains within the Security Council," he said, adding that the German government would do all it could to achieve disarmament in Iraq without allowing military force to be used.

He also welcomed plans by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to give the UN information about Iraq's weaponsprogramme.

Australia, a staunch US ally, gave its full backing today to Washington's decision to present the United Nations with new evidence of Iraq's failure to comply with demands to disarm.

"Iraq is not complying with the resolution (to disarm), Iraq is thumbing its nose at the rest of the world, and the Security Council must see that its own resolution is enforced," Prime Minister John Howard told reporters after Bush's address.

Russia said today it saw no grounds for the use of force against Iraq, calling on the international community to allow UN weapons inspectors more time to continue their work, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said."We are guided by the principles of international law andthe prerogatives of the Security Council and, as we have said before, we do not see grounds for the use of military force," ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said."The potential for political and diplomatic regulation hasnot been exhausted and we think that international inspectors should be given the opportunity to continue their work."In a statement issued Mr Bush's speech, Moscow said it agreed on the need to resist "terrorism" but did not see eye to eye with Washington on "the concrete source ofthreats".