Halfway Out On A Limb

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The United States acted unilaterally in launching cruise missile strikes against Saddam Hussein, with the support of some of its closest allies, but the action was met with skepticism by other powers. Virtually every nation condemned the Iraqi attacks on the Kurdish city of Irbil in northern Iraq this weekend, but divisions arose over the appropriate reaction. Of greatest concern is the response of the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; the U.S. is the fifth. Only Britain was an enthusiastic advocate of the strike, contributing logistical support to the mission. A French diplomat interviewed by CNN acknowledged that his government was informed Monday of President Clinton's decision, but he was pointedly non-committal regarding France's support for the strike. Rather, he said France was "deeply concerned" about conflict in the region. Russia and China took a similar view. Russia warned that an escalation of the conflict "could lead to a dangerous situation in the Middle East." Chinese officials called for restraint, and asked the international community to show respect for Iraq's sovereignty. In other international reaction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a press conference that he supported the mission, and told Israelis that he did not believe they were at any risk of retaliation from Iraq. Despite the personal diplomacy of U.S. General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Jordan's King Hussein refused to allow that nation to be used as a staging point for the attack. Saudi Arabia, despite concerns that its alliance with the U.S. is fostering dissent within the kingdom, quietly agreed to cooperate with the retaliatory strike, but refused to allow Saudi-based U.S. warplanes to join the attack.