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Thursday, 20 September, 2001, 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK
Chirac: Fighting terror a priority
President Jacques Chirac flies over site of WTC
Chirac over Manhattan: "When you see it you feel like crying"
By the BBC's Greg Barrow in New York

French President Jacques Chirac has said France will not stand aside in the international fight against the scourge of terrorism - but he said his country still had to determine and evaluate its contribution.

President Chirac was speaking after a meeting at the United Nations headquarters with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Today it is New York that was tragically struck but tomorrow it may be Paris, Berlin, London

President Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac said the fight against terrorism would be a modern and unknown form of war - but it had to be made an international priority.

President Chirac flew into New York from Washington, where he had become the first foreign head of state to meet President Bush since the attacks on the United States last week.

In New York, he flew over the area now known as ground zero, where rescue workers are clearing up the wreckage and recovering bodies from what remains of the World Trade Center.

Chirac (left) greeted by Mayor Guiliani
Chirac is the first foreign leader to visit New York since the disaster
The attack on the World Trade Center was beyond what we would call a crime, he said - it was the height of human foolishness.

Then, Mr Chirac moved on to the UN, which may yet become the focus of efforts to build a national coalition for a war on global terrorism.

After a working lunch with Mr Annan, he spelt out the French position.

Fanatical groups

"France, I can tell you, will not stand aside in a fight against a scourge that defies all democracies," he said.

"Today it is New York that was tragically struck but tomorrow it may be Paris, Berlin, London."

"So of course France will determine the ways and means which it will contribute after making an evaluation and after reaching agreement with the other Europeans and the Americans and all its other partners."

President Chirac and Mr Annan spoke of the need to focus on the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr Chirac described them as fanatical groups, and both men said that any coalition set up to deal with the problem of terrorism would have to be as broadly based as possible if it was to be effective.

See also:

18 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair embarks on diplomatic offensive
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
18 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
China demands US attack evidence
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