London (CNSNews.com) - Amidst a growing split among European leaders over policy towards Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to Washington on Friday for talks with President Bush.
Blair is expected to urge Bush to pursue a second U.N. resolution before any military action against Saddam Hussein. Before leaving London, he reaffirmed his support for further U.N. Security Council discussions.
"I think it's right we go for a second resolution because that's a way of saying this is an issue the international community is not going to duck," he told CNN.
While the prime minister said that while Iraq is not fully cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors, he refused to give a deadline after which military strikes could begin.
"When people say to me how long do you give it, you give it as long as it takes to come to a conclusive and final judgment that they are not cooperating. At the moment they are not," he said.
Blair also held talks in Madrid on Friday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, one of the eight signatories of a pro-U.S. letter that was published in the Wall Street Journal and several major European newspapers Thursday, as well as CNSNews.com.
"We want peace and we want the crisis which has been created by Iraq to be solved peacefully," Aznar said at a press conference following the meeting. "Now this depends on the Iraqi regime complying with the U.N. resolution."
Blair said that if disarmament of Iraq "cannot happen through the United Nations weapons inspectors and obedience to the U.N. resolution, then it must happen by other means."
In addition to Blair and Aznar, the leaders of Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark signed the letter pledging support for the U.S. position.
Germany and France were not invited to sign and one country, Holland, was invited but declined.
Although there have been signs of a deep split in Europe, French and British leaders tried to play down the controversy.
"We are not seeking to pit one Europe against another, as everyone sees we defend the same principles: firmness towards Iraq and a concern to find a solution to the crisis in the framework of the United Nations." said French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin.
Responding to questions in London, a spokesman for Blair said only that France and Germany "are in a slightly different place" on policy towards Iraq.
But German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Europe's position was "of 15 [E.U. countries], not of eight," a reference to a non-binding European Parliament resolution passed Thursday that stated that Iraq's lack of full cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors did not currently justify military action.
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