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After two postponements for informal talks, ambassadors from the 19 NATO countries came together for a second day of emergency consultations on Tuesday evening, only to adjourn 20 minutes later.
``Right now, we do not have a conclusion,'' the NATO spokesman, Yves Brodeur, said afterward. Consultations would continue through the night, he said, and the ambassadors would reconvene at 9:45 a.m. (local time) on Wednesday. ``It is a serious issue and everyone is committed to work hard to try to find a solution to it,'' he said.
Asked if there were any new proposals, Mr. Brodeur said: ``There are a number of options that have been discussed.'' He refused to elaborate.
Diplomats said Berlin might be wavering in its resistance but were unsure whether the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, would break ranks with the French President, Jacques Chirac, or be able to persuade him to come aboard. Mr. Brodeur, while refusing to comment directly, said only that the ``context'' of the dispute ``has not really changed.''
The division in the alliance threatens U.S. attempts to muster support in the U.N. Security Council for military action against Iraq. France and Germany, joined by Russia and China, are seeking more time for beefed-up U.N. inspections in a proposal opposed by Washington.
On Tuesday, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said his country, a permanent Security Council member, would consider vetoing any ``unreasonable use of force'' against Iraq. Speaking through a translator on French television, he said a unilateral attack on Iraq would be a ``grave error.''
``If today a proposition was made that we felt would lead to an unreasonable use of force, we would act with France or alone,'' Mr. Putin said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. President, George W. Bush, urged support for his hardline stand against the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, in phone conversations with the leaders of the Philippines, Angola and Britain. Ministers from Norway, Denmark, Britain, Greece also criticised the three holdouts.
The crisis, which has been bubbling for almost a month, came to a head on Monday when, in an unprecedented move, the French, Germans and Belgians rebuffed a direct appeal for help from Turkey issued under NATO's mutual defence treaty.
In an effort to sway the holdouts, diplomats said changes in the wording of the request were made to include a reference to Article 1 of its treaty, in which allies pledge ``to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.''
The diplomats said it did not change the substance of the Turkey's request to begin planning to send it AWACS early warning planes, Patriot anti-missile batteries and units trained to counter chemical and biological weapons. Washington, backed by 15 allies, say those measures are needed urgently to protect Turkey the only NATO nation bordering Iraq from an Iraqi missile strike.
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