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Gary Younge
France and Germany harden stance against war

The French president, Jacques Chirac, said the UN chief nuclear weapons inspector, Mohamed El Baradei, had asked for a delay of "several months" to allow work to be completed.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Germany would use its presidency of the security council to try to force a delay of at least two weeks before any decision on going to war could be taken by asking the weapons inspectors to report back on February 14.

However, the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said that there was little point in prolonging inspections.

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