Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said yesterday a new U.N. mandate was not strictly necessary to take action against Iraq, but he said it was too early to say whether circumstances might require one. “The current resolution says that if the Iraqi regime does not abide by the instructions from the Security Council it must live with 'serious consequences'. It does not say 'If the Iraqi regime does not comply with its obligations there will be another resolution,” Aznar told a news conference. Spain, which took one of the 10 rotating seats on the 15-nation Security Council at the start of this year, has become one of the staunchest European allies of U.S. President George W. Bush's government. Aznar's remarks appeared to leave him isolated in Europe after British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest European ally, said yesterday a new U.N. resolution was “preferable” before launching any strikes. “I believe we will get one,” Blair added. France and Germany have already said the current Security Council resolution, approved in November, does not constitute sufficient basis for an attack on Iraq and a new ruling would be necessary to take action should Iraq refuse to disarm. “When the work (of the weapons inspectors) has progressed and is subnmitted to the Security Council, that will be the time to take a decision on whether a new resolution is necessary,” Aznar said. “For now, it is too early to venture an answer.”

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