Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda expressed concern Wednesday that the rift between the United States and European countries skeptical of Washington’s case against Iraq is sending “the wrong message” to Baghdad.

“Differences of opinions are emerging in the international community,” Fukuda said. “We are concerned they may send the wrong message to Iraq. The international community must be united in dealing with Iraq.”

Fukuda was referring to a joint statement issued Monday by France, Russia and Germany that called for extending the weapons inspection process, as well as a rejection by Germany, France and Belgium of U.S. calls at a NATO meeting to boost Turkish defenses in anticipation of a military offensive against Iraq.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi remained noncommittal on Japanese support of a joint call by France, Russia and Germany to extend weapons inspections in Iraq, saying only that Japan will wait to see the result of the inspectors’ report on Friday to the U.N. Security Council.

In a one-on-one debate at a meeting of both houses of the Diet, Naoto Kan, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, pressed Koizumi on whether he sides with the three European nations or the U.S.

“It is not a question that I can answer,” Koizumi said, adding that he will make his stance clear after Friday.

Kan criticized Koizumi for “having no opinion” while leaders of other countries, including China, have clearly expressed their stance. “If you are on the side of the U.S., why don’t you say so clearly?” he asked.

Koizumi ignored the question, saying only that Iraq must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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