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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Chirac denies Iraq-al-Qaeda link
Friday prayers in Baghdad
War could spark new attacks, Chirac warned
French President Jacques Chirac has said he knows of no relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and has warned that a war against Baghdad could provoke terrorists to stage new attacks.

Speaking to a Lebanese newspaper ahead of a visit to Beirut, Mr Chirac said that the main aim of the international community should be the disarmament of Iraq, and that this should not be confused with the issue of terrorism.

Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac says he has yet to see proof of a link
Mr Chirac's comments to the Beirut daily L'Orient Le Jour go against remarks made by US President George W Bush on Monday, when he said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had links with al-Qaeda and wanted to use it as "a forward army".

France remains opposed to American wishes for a United Nations' Security Council resolution making military force an automatic response if Iraq obstructs new weapons inspections.

"Even if some terrorists have found refuge in Iraq, you mustn't mix up issues," Mr Chirac told L'Orient Le Jour, adding that "the main aim of the international community concerning Iraq must be disarmament".

Mr Chirac also warned the Iraq crisis could inspire militant groups to launch new attacks around the world.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that terrorist groups use the Iraq affair as a pretext for new acts and as propaganda arguments," he said.

The president said that the feeling of injustice shared by many Arabs watching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could widen if Iraq was also brought into the fray.

"Our responsibility is to look after stability in the Middle East. With the Iraqi crisis, it's the whole region that is threatened," he said in the interview.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

France, which as one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council has veto power on council decisions, is lobbying for two resolutions.

One would give a deadline for compliance with inspections, and if this was ignored, another would spell out the consequences for Baghdad.

Mr Chirac is in the Middle East to attend a summit of French-speaking states in Beirut.


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27 Sep 02 | Americas
09 Sep 02 | Americas
29 Aug 02 | Middle East
26 Sep 02 | Americas
27 Sep 02 | Americas
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