PRAGUE, Czech Republic ? Heeding President Bush?s call, NATO leaders pledged Thursday to help the United Nations ?fully and immediately? disarm Iraq. They also redrew the political map of Europe, reaching behind the former Iron Curtain for seven new members.
Barely a decade after winning independence from Moscow, the Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania joined former communist states Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia as the next wave of NATO states.
?Events have moved faster than we could possibly have imagined,? said Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas.
On the summit sidelines, Bush and his foreign policy team lobbied feverishly for an anti-Iraq NATO statement while urging individual allies to ante up troops and other military assistance for possible war against Saddam Hussein.
The results were mixed: Bush won partial victory on the Iraq statement while the war solicitations received lukewarm responses from allies inside and outside NATO.
In a four-paragraph statement, the 19-member alliance unanimously echoed the U.N. call for ?severe consequences? should Iraq insist on retaining weapons of mass destruction.
The phrase is Bush?s license to wage war as a last resort, the White House said.
But the statement did not threaten collective military action by the 19-nation alliance nor did it prevent some allies ? particularly Germany and France ? from distancing themselves from Bush?s zero tolerance position and even the document itself.
It did commit the alliance to taking ?effective action to assist and support the efforts of the U.N.? That pledge was designed to make NATO?s logistical and diplomatic assets available to the United Nations, though it could be read as offering the alliance?s military support, said a senior Bush administration official.
That official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said neither the United States nor its allies envision using NATO?s military capacity to help enforce the resolution.
On the summit?s opening day, Bush sought out his most supportive allies ? and froze out the reluctant ones ? to urge a united stance against Saddam.
?If he chooses not to disarm, we will work with our close friends, the closest of which is Great Britain, and we will disarm him,? the president said after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair said his country ?will do what?s necessary? to enforce the U.N. resolution.