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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
US signals action against France
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Powell says the US is reviewing its relationship with France
American Secretary of State Colin Powell has said France will suffer consequences for having opposed the US over the war with Iraq.

He said the US would be reviewing all aspects of its relations with France in light of its decision to veto any UN Security Council resolution authorising war against Iraq.

Details of Mr Powell's comments to an American TV programme emerged after France's UN ambassador - in an unexpected move - proposed the immediate suspension of sanctions against Iraq.

However, France still appears to be pressing for the involvement of UN weapons inspectors in verifying any illegal weapons finds in Iraq before the sanctions can be finally lifted.

In an apparent rebuff of the French proposal, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Wednesday that the sanctions must be lifted, "not merely suspended".

The BBC's William Horsley says there are two things Paris could do to regain some of its lost favour in Washington: to write off much of the debt owed to it by the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein, and to support the US call for Nato to take a key role in Iraqi peacekeeping.

Out in the cold

Senior US officials are reported to have debated tough measures against France at a high-level meeting on Monday.

Provides food for about 60% of Iraqis
Aims to give Iraqis 2,470 calories per day
570,000 tonnes of food a month
44,000 distribution agents
Five entry points

"We have to take a look at the relationship. We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Mr Powell said in the interview on the Charlie Rose Show.

Asked if there were consequences for having opposed the US, Mr Powell replied "yes" but he did not elaborate.

One US official was quoted as saying: "They are trying to find ways to create alternative mechanisms for dealing with the French - or rather without them - and not just at Nato, but more broadly."

Humanitarian aid

The French ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said the sanctions issue was linked by past Security Council resolutions to a certification of Iraqi disarmament.

"So meanwhile, we could suspend the sanctions and adjust the oil-for-food [programme] with an idea of its phasing out," he told reporters, following a briefing by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix.

Under the oil-for-food programme - launched in December 1996, suspended on the eve of war but now resumed - the UN manages the use of funds generated by limited Iraqi oil sales to pay for imports of humanitarian goods.

The weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq shortly before the US and UK launched the war to oust Saddam Hussein - a war condemned by France, Germany and Russia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell
"We did not believe they played a helpful role"

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