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Clinton thanks Canada, Australia for Iraq support

Tuesday February 10, 10:17 am Eastern Time

WASHINGTON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - President Bill Clinton on Tuesday publicly thanked Canada and Australia for offering to join a military strike on Iraq and repeated his determination to launch an attack if Baghdad does not back down.

``I hope we can avoid the use of force,'' he said. ``But if (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) will not comply with the will of the international community we must be prepared to act and I am very grateful that others are prepared to stand with America.''

Clinton said at a White House ceremony to comment on his annual economic report that he was ``very pleased'' for ``the support we are receiving from all around the world for our stand against Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.'' He added: ``Friends and allies share our conviction that Saddam must not be allowed to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or the missiles to deliver them.''

Canada and Australia said on Monday they would offer military support if diplomatic efforts to settle the stand-off failed and the United States, which already has British and German backing, unleashes the powerful force it has assembled in the Gulf.

Washington has been unable to draw the same kind of support for an attack on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as it did for the coalition that ejected Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. Many states, including Russia, China and many European countries, have said force should be avoided.

But U.S. officials say they have strong backing for the principle of forcing Saddam to comply with the United Nations weapons inspections and undeclared support from many states.

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