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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 19:39 GMT 20:39 UK
France speaks out against US war plan
A UN weapons inspection van
UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998
French President Jacques Chirac has become the latest Western leader to speak out against an American attack on Iraq.

He condemned US threats to attack Iraq unilaterally, saying that a United Nations mandate should be sought for military action.

We are beginning to see the temptation of legitimising the unilateral and preventive use of force - this development is worrying

Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac's speech followed a proposal by the UK Foreign Ministry to set a new deadline for Baghdad to comply with UN resolutions ordering the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction.

But Baghdad has dismissed calls to allow back weapons inspectors on the grounds that the US has already made up its mind to attack Iraq.

Unnamed US officials appeared to confirm this, saying in news agency reports that the Bush administration will seek to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein regardless of whether he allows back the inspectors, who were barred in 1998.

Washington insists Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, making "regime change" desirable. However President George Bush and his aides say no decision has yet been taken to attack Baghdad.

UN should decide

Mr Chirac told a meeting of French diplomats US threats ran counter to France's notion of collective security based on co-operation between states, respect for the law and the authority of the UN Security Council.

Timeline: arms inspections
Feb 1991: Gulf War ends - Iraq subjected to UN arms inspections
Jan 1998: Iraq accuses inspectors of spying
Feb 1998: UN reaches new deal with Baghdad
Oct 1998: Iraq ceases co-operation
Nov 1998: Inspectors return
Dec 1998: Inspectors leave - US air strikes begin
Jul 2002: UN-Iraq talks end without deal
Aug 2002: Iraq invites inspection chief to Baghdad
He said that the Security Council should decide what measures to take in the event of Iraq refusing to allow the unconditional return of weapons inspectors.

The French president's remarks come amid mounting hostility towards a prospective strike against Iraq, both within the Arab world and further afield in Europe and Asia.

Britain, meanwhile, has tried to bridge the emerging gap with Washington with its proposal of a deadline to force Iraq to comply with UN resolutions.

In separate comments to the Financial Times newspaper, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Baghdad should be put "on the spot" over allowing inspectors to search for any biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

"So what I want to do, what we're doing, is putting the ball back in Saddam Hussein's court. He is in breach of these nine security council resolutions. He has 27 separate obligations. He is in breach of 23 of them," Mr Straw said.

'Return of spies'

Speaking shortly after the UK Government proposal was made, a senior Iraqi official said there was no point in allowing inspectors back.

"The US administration is an insane, criminal administration - its logic is the logic of force," said Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

"What purpose would there be for a goodwill gesture or an initiative for the return of spies?

"The US administration says day and night that this issue is not related to whether the inspectors return or not, that it has to do with changing the regime by force."

Bridget Kendall reports
"Is war now inevitable?"

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29 Aug 02 | Middle East
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