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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 12:26 GMT
France threatens force against Iraq
An aircraft takes off from USS Abraham Lincoln
The French government never ruled out war on Iraq

France has made its strongest statement of support yet for military action against Iraq.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said that if President Saddam Hussein fails to comply with the Security Council resolution on inspection and disarmament, force will inevitably be used against Baghdad.

The French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin
De Villepin: Iraq must comply
During more than four weeks of argument with the United States about the resolution, France consistently argued that it should not give automatic authorisation for military action.

The French Government never ruled out military action against Iraq, or even taking part in it - provided it was authorised by the United Nations Security Council.

In that, it took care to mark out a different position from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who angered Washington in his campaign for re-election by saying Germany would not join such a campaign in any circumstances.

Hardline message

In an interview on France Inter radio, Mr de Villepin noted that the resolution setting out the new inspection regime had been passed unanimously.


The French and the Americans are now delivering the same hardline message to Iraq - which may surprise some who saw them argue over the resolution line by line for several weeks

He said President Saddam Hussein now knew perfectly well what would happen if he did not comply with the resolution.

The scenario was now clear: if he did not meet his obligations, force would obviously be used.

Despite Mr de Villepin's comments, it is still presumably the French Government's position that the Security Council should take the final decision on military action.

Washington's view is that that isn't necessary, and indeed the resolution doesn't say it is.

But the French and the Americans are now delivering the same hardline message to Iraq - which may surprise some who saw them argue over the resolution line by line for several weeks.

But the argument was conducted without recrimination, and both governments decided they would in the end get roughly what they wanted.

For France, it was a reaffirmation of its international influence as a permanent member of the Security Council, together with Washington's agreement to act through the United Nations.

As for the United States, it got a resolution that gives it a virtually free hand against Iraq, and strengthened legitimacy for any military action it may eventually take.


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See also:

12 Nov 02 | Middle East
09 Nov 02 | Media reports
08 Nov 02 | Middle East
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