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The World | SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

30 Countries Listed as U.S. Allies in Conflict

Few heavy hitters are on the official roster, although Washington says 15 more nations unwilling to be named would assist an invasion.

March 19, 2003|Robin Wright | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Impoverished Eritrea, remote Iceland and war-torn Afghanistan have joined the U.S.-led coalition poised to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But many of the mighty nations that joined Operation Desert Storm in 1991 are notably absent from a list of 30 nations released Tuesday by the State Department. The Bush administration said 15 more participating countries were unwilling to be named.

In 1991, at least 30 nations provided troops, warplanes or warships, with other nations providing additional assistance and funding, to expel Iraq from Kuwait. This time, only Britain and Australia are committing significant numbers of troops to join the United States.

"That is sufficient to accomplish the mission," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Tuesday.

Traditional North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies such as France and Germany, as well as other European countries that oppose the war, won't send troops or provide financial assistance. Canada, a vital U.S. neighbor that in 1991 dispatched three warships and a squadron of fighter jets, is also opting out.

Even Spain, co-sponsor with the U.S. and Britain of a withdrawn U.N. resolution to authorize force against Baghdad, announced Tuesday that it will not deploy soldiers. Public opinion is so heavily opposed to military intervention that Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar decided he could not help, even though Spain is listed as one of the coalition countries.

And Bulgaria, which promised the only Security Council vote besides the three co-sponsors' for the failed U.N. resolution, pledged its support -- but asked not to be listed publicly, U.S. officials indicated.

The Bush administration heralded its new allies, noting that their number was still growing. But Washington was clearly disappointed that the list included few big names.

"Sure, there are countries that we wish would have thought it possible to support our position and support our efforts," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday in an interview with international wire services. "But a situation like this where you have these kinds of disagreements -- people make their choices. We do what we think is necessary or we believe is right."

The White House bristled Tuesday at suggestions that the rest of the world had formed a "coalition of the unwilling."

"Not every nation has the ability to contribute. Not every nation is in an area that is geographically advantageous concerning military operations or overflights or basing," Fleischer said.

Yet many of the countries that have joined the U.S. -- from El Salvador to Estonia, Azerbaijan to Albania, the Philippines to Nicaragua -- fit that category. They are small, have limited means or militaries, and are far from the action.

The 1991 coalition and this one are different in other ways. A dozen years ago, seven Arab countries provided more than 120,000 troops, and others provided funds or political support, to liberate Kuwait. This time, not a single Arab country was willing to be listed, even though Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are playing host to U.S. troops.

And none of the oil-rich nations are providing financial backing to pay the military tab, as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did last time when they contributed tens of billions of dollars.

Indeed, King Fahd issued a statement Tuesday declaring that Saudi Arabia would not participate "under any circumstances" in the sequel to Operation Desert Storm.

"Extraordinary circumstances of this crisis over the past 12 years force us not to enter in an unplanned adventure that could endanger the security of our country and people," the king said in a statement read on nationwide television by Crown Prince Abdullah.

Fahd also said that his kingdom, where U.S. warplanes have been based to enforce the "no-fly" zone over southern Iraq, "rejects outright" any infringement "on Iraq's unity, independence, resources and internal security, as well as a military occupation, and we have informed the United States of our position."

Turkey is listed as a member of the coalition, even though its parliament failed on March 1 to approve the use of military bases on its soil to open a northern front against Iraq. Washington was still working on the issue Tuesday, hoping to at least win overflight rights. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld held talks with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, while Powell called Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Powell said the new Turkish government wants another parliamentary vote, even though polls indicate that up to 90% of Turks are opposed to a war and to assisting the U.S.

"They are trying to figure out the best way to do that. It may or may not fit in with our own timing is the issue," Powell said in the interview.

If a vote failed again, it is unclear what role Turkey would actually play in a coalition.

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