China's new leaders pressed ahead Tuesday with efforts to avoid military conflict in Iraq, insisting that U.N. weapons inspections must continue despite President Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein.
That diplomatic offensive came as Japan praised Bush for his decisive stance and Australia offered troops for his campaign — displaying some of the deep divisions around the world over Bush's demand that Saddam step down within 48 hours or face war.
"It was a decision that had to be made," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called off a possible last-minute peacemaking trip to Iraq on Tuesday, in what appeared to signal the end of Arab efforts to avert a war.
"Due to developments we've witnessed in the last few hours, it won't be possible for the secretary-general to visit Baghdad," said his spokesman, Hisham Youssef.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, meanwhile, spoke by phone with his Russian and French counterparts, emphasizing Beijing's opposition to war with Iraq, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
Hu, the Communist Party leader who replaced Jiang Zemin as president on Saturday, told Russian President Vladimir Putin that "the door to peace should not be shut, and China has made great efforts in this regard," Xinhua said. It said Hu expressed similar sentiments to French President Jacques Chirac.
The phone conversations followed an appeal by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at a news conference, his first since taking office this weekend, for "every effort" to avoid military conflict.
Germany and France also railed against Bush's tough stance.
"Does the threat posed by the Iraqi dictator justify a war, which is sure to kill thousands of innocent children, women and men? My answer in this case was and is: No," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared.
Chirac said a war without the support of the United Nations would undermine future efforts at peaceful disarmament. France led an effort to give U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq more time to uncover banned weapons.
The most solid support for Bush came from Australia, where Prime Minister John Howard said his government would commit 2,000 troops to a U.S.-led attack. "I believe very strongly the position the government has taken is right," Howard said.
In Tokyo, Koizumi described the ultimatum as "a very difficult decision" for Bush and reiterated his government's position that there was no need for a new U.N. resolution authorizing an attack.
Japan's constitution bars its armed forces from fighting in foreign wars, but Koizumi's government reportedly was considering humanitarian missions.
In Mexico City, President Vicente Fox said that he regrets that the conflict appears headed for war but that his nation's opposition to military action would not strain relations with the United States.
Mexico, a member of the U.N. Security Council, had struggled with its position on Iraq, as Fox walked a fine line between offending voters at home who overwhelmingly oppose war and antagonizing the United States, which accounts for about 75 percent of Mexico's trade.
"We maintain our belief that the diplomatic means to achieving (the goal) have not been exhausted," Fox said.
In Indonesia, a government spokesman lamented the apparent breakdown of diplomacy. "We still believe that a solution to the crisis should be found within the U.N. Security Council," spokesman Marty Natalegawa said.
The countdown to war has raised the prospect of a backlash by Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia, making it difficult to crack down on radical groups.
"I don't understand how someone can want war like Bush does," said Srisu Sapti, a maid in Jakarta. "Women and children will be killed."
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clark said it was "highly debatable" whether a U.S.-led strike on Iraq would be justified under international law.
India issued a veiled criticism of U.S. unilateralism, while Pakistan planned an emergency session of Parliament on Wednesday to discuss Iraq.
South Korea previously has said it supports U.S. efforts to fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction and has indicated it may send military engineers to help assist U.S. troops in the war.