Some lawmakers said the actions of France, Germany and Belgium are threatening NATO's effectiveness.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Angry lawmakers say U.S. allies have betrayed the United States and the NATO military alliance in a dispute over a possible war with Iraq.
Some lawmakers suggested the survival of the alliance may be at stake -- a concern voiced by Secretary of State Colin Powell. He told senators Tuesday that NATO and U.N. alliances could fall apart because of a reluctance to provide military support sought by Turkey, the only Muslim NATO member.
Powell was returning to Capitol Hill today to appear before the House International Relations Committee, whose leaders have strongly backed President Bush's tough line on Iraq.
The panel's top Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, said in remarks prepared for the hearing that he was "particularly disgusted by the blind intransigence and utter ingratitude" of France, Germany and Belgium, which have blocked a U.S.-backed plan to improve Turkey's defenses against any attack from neighboring Iraq. The three countries, which favor giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time in Iraq, see the plan as making war more likely.
"If it were not for the heroic efforts of America's military, France, Germany and Belgium today would be Soviet socialist republics," Lantos said. "The failure of these three states to honor their commitments is beneath contempt."
The committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., said in his prepared remarks that "America has fought distant wars to defend whole continents from a succession of aggressors, but the beneficiaries of the safety we have ensured often devote their energies to impeding our efforts to help others."
U.S. officials say failing to help defend Turkey would violate the basic NATO principle that an attack against one member is considered an attack against all.
Powell said if the dispute isn't resolved, the United States would work independently with other NATO nations to boost Turkey's defenses.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that if the United States is forced to bypass the alliance, "NATO will quickly atrophy."
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Congress may consider reducing financial support for NATO.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, R-Okla., told Powell at the panel's hearing Tuesday that he was "amazed at [France's] presumption that they're controlling the alliance."
An International Relations Committee member, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., suggested creating a defense alliance in which France, "a second-rate country," wouldn't have veto power over U.S. foreign policy.
Passions surrounding the Iraq debate have increased ahead of a crucial report Friday by U.N. weapons inspectors on Iraqi cooperation in the search for weapons of mass destruction.
President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, met Tuesday in New York with chief inspector Hans Blix. They discussed the inspection process, a senior U.S. official said.
Powell said the United States would maintain pressure on the U.N. Security Council to back the use of force as an option. "It is clear a moment of truth is coming for the Security Council," he said.
Also Tuesday, the Al-Jazeera satellite television station broadcast what is believed to be an audio tape of Osama bin Laden, urging Iraqis to carry out suicide attacks against Americans.
Powell said the tape showed that the "nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored."
Some Democrats, though, say the Bush administration has not proven that Iraq poses an immediate threat to the United States. Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C. said the Bush administration was "barreling in" to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein over international objections.
"You really believe that regardless of the China, Russia and everyone else and the alliances that we just go ahead, break up the alliance just to get Saddam, who's not an immediate threat?" he asked Powell.
Powell said that if the United Nations and NATO fail to act after Saddam ignores repeated U.N. resolutions calling on him to disarm, "then who's breaking up the alliance? Not the United States. The alliance is breaking itself up because it will not meet its responsibilities."
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