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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 15:36 GMT
Chirac and Schroeder on US ultimatum
Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder
France and Germany have consistently opposed war in Iraq

French President Jacques Chirac responded on Tuesday to President George W Bush's ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to leave the country or face war.

The text of Chirac's speech, recorded at the Elysee Palace in Paris, is as follows:

Since the start of the Iraq crisis, France has been at pains to make the necessary disarmament of Iraq possible under the authority of the United Nations. This disarmament is under way. The inspectors are proof of this.

France's action has been inspired by the primacy of international law, and guided by its understanding of the nature of relations between peoples and nations.

Force 'last resort'

Faithful to the spirit of the UN charter, which is our common law, France considers the use of force is a last resort when all other options have been exhausted. France's stance is shared by the great majority of the international community.

The latest discussions clearly showed that the Security Council was not disposed in the current circumstances to sanction a rush towards war.

The United States has just given Iraq an ultimatum. Whether it is a question - I repeat - of the necessary disarming of Iraq or the desirable change of regime in that country, there is no justification here for a unilateral decision to resort to war.

'Grave decision'

However events develop in the near future, this ultimatum calls into question the notion that we have of international relations. It commits the future of a people, the future of a region, and the stability of the world.

It is a grave decision at a time when the disarmament of Iraq is under way and the inspections have proved they were a credible alternative for disarming that country.

It is also a decision which compromises - for the future - the methods for peacefully resolving crises linked to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq does not today represent an immediate threat such as to justify an immediate war.

Respect and unity

France is calling on everybody's responsibility so that international law is respected. It is calling for the preservation of the unity of the Security Council by remaining within the framework set by Resolution 1441.

To forego the legitimacy of the United Nations, to favour force over law, would be to take on a heavy responsibility.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also addressed the nation on Tuesday in response to the American ultimatum to the Iraqi leader.

The text of his address is as follows:

The world is on the eve of war.

My question has been and remains: does the scale of the threat from the Iraqi dictator justify the launch of a war that will certainly bring death to thousands of innocent men, women and children?

My answer in this case has been and remains: No.

Iraq today is a country that is under comprehensive UN supervision. The disarmament steps that the UN Security Council has demanded are being increasingly fulfilled.

Inspectors should remain

That is why there is no reason to break off this disarmament process now. My government, with its partners, has worked hard for the success of Hans Blix and his staff - which has been growing constantly.

We have always viewed this as our contribution to world peace. This is in line with the basic values to which we feel committed.

I am deeply moved by the fact that I know my attitude is shared by the overwhelming majority of our people, but also by the majority of the UN Security Council and the world's peoples.

No further chance for peace

I doubt whether peace will get another chance in the coming hours. However desirable it may be that this dictator should lose office, the aim of Resolution 1441 is Iraq's disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

My fellow citizens, whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, you may rest assured that my government will not waver in exploiting every chance for peace in the world, no matter how small.

The UN remains the framework for that, and you may rest assured that we shall do everything to guarantee all imaginable security in our country.

I have sworn an oath to increase the wellbeing of our people and to avert misfortune from them. This applies especially in wartime. I shall remain committed to that, and I count on your desire for peace and on your support.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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