US remains optimistic on strength of anti-Iraq coalition

The United States has expressed optimism that, despite diplomatic rifts over the prospect of a military strike against Iraq, it can already count nine other countries that would contribute troops to such an attack. Nations agreeing at least to grant access to bases, airstrips and ports would number more than 20.

There was no word from the US yesterday on the identities of those states and some Western diplomats cautioned that the White House might be guilty of some mild wishful thinking. Who would line up with troop contributions will greatly depend on events in the coming weeks at the United Nations.

The figure of nine contributors was mentioned by Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, during testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said separately that 22 governments were at least offering logistical support in the event of war, if not troops. Albania announced yesterday that it would allow over-flights.

Washington has been heartened by a letter signed by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and seven other European heads of government pledging support for America's position inside the UN Security Council. The Wall Street Journal was the instigator of the unprecedented open letter, published in newspapers on Thursday, signed by Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

With Australia, which has already started deploying to the Gulf, this could already spell a nine-strong coalition of possible troop contributors. Denmark has since confirmed that it would take part in an offensive. But it is far from sure that every country that signed Thursday's letter would do the same.

"We are not certain where that number [of nine] came from," one senior diplomat observed anonymously. "We tend to think that it came out of a hat and is to do with American spin. It is a bit odd to spell out numbers now when so much depends on the circumstances when we get to that point."

Most important will be the developing picture inside the UN Security Council, which convenes on Wednesday to hear Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, lay out the latest American intelligence on Iraq. Washington hopes the demonstration will bring more countries over to its view on Iraqi non-compliance.

In the event of deadlock in the Council, however, and a failure by Britain and America to forge a new resolution authorising war, even countries sympathetic with Washington may balk before negative public opinion in their own countries before joining military action.

At a meeting of the Security Council last Wednesday, at least nine countries expressed reservations on any early move towards military engagement and, to varying degrees, showed a preference for allowing inspections in Iraq to continue longer.

France and Germany, meanwhile, which were notably absent from the "gang of eight" statement, have created a strong front opposed to any hasty embrace of America's position.

At least nine positive votes will be needed in the Council for a new resolution to succeed, assuming that none of the five permanent members casts a veto.

The chief UN inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed al-Baradei, are meanwhile considering a new invitation from Iraq to visit Baghdad in the next 10 days. On 14 February they are due to deliver another progress report to the UN Security Council.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments